Shichimi Togarashi Uncovered
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This spicy Japanese spice blend may sound exotic, but since appearing in recipes by Jamie Oliver and the Hairy Bikers, it’s popping up more and more in British cupboards.
This Japanese seven spice blend gets its name from the words shichi, whichis Japanese for ‘seven’ and togarashi meaning peppers.
The seven spices consist of:
Some recipes may also include poppy seeds and hemp seeds.
While Japanese cuisine isn’t famous for being particularly spicy, this seven spice blend adds a fiery kick to a whole range of dishes. Orange peel and seaweed make up most of the aromatic fragrance, with the citrus and oceanic flavours and aromas complementing each other – just as a slice of lemon complements grilled fish. Ginger, Sichuan pepper and a mix of sesame seeds add a deeper flavour to the spice blend. Don’t expect your head to be blown off by the Sichuan peppercorns – although they add some depth, they’re not present in high enough quantities to numb the tongue like Sichuan cooking does.
As there are so many flavours in the spice blend, there are many different uses for it. Bottles of shichimi togarashi are found on tables in Japanese restaurants as it’s such an easy to use condiment as it doesn’t need toasting beforehand. In general, the Japanese add this spice blend to season different noodle dishes like udon and soba, grilled meats, chicken skewers (yakitori), rice dishes, eggs, fish, marinades, tempura and other fried foods. You can even sprinkle it on popcorn, rice cakes and crackers.
This spice blend dates back to the 17th century during the Edo period. It’s thought that the Yagenbori herb shop in the Higashi-Nihonbashi area of present day Tokyo were the first ones to create this spice blend. It was initially sold in pharmacies for its medicinal properties after chillies were introduced to Japan as a form of medicine. After a while, street vendors started using the spice blend as a seasoning and it quickly caught on. People started selling it at neighbourhood festivals, where stalls were set up in front of shrines and temples.
Shichimi and nanami togarashi are very similar spice blends. Both use the same ingredients, but at slightly different ratios, with nanami togarashi using a higher amount of orange peel.
You don’t want to get these spice blends mixed up with ichimi togarashi. This literally means ‘one flavour chilli pepper’ and is purely ground red chilli pepper.
Keen to try it out? You can find shichimi togarashi on our website here. Here are some great recipes which use the spice blend: