From za’atar to tahini to furikake, there are quite a few ingredients out there in the culinary world that you’ve probably seen on menus and ingredient lists (and maybe even tried), but were never quite sure what it was. We’re with you. At Plated, we’re all about experimenting with and understanding new flavors. And this month, we’re taking a deep dive into shichimi togarashi.
Shichimi togarashi (also referred to as simply shichimi or “seven spice powder”) is a highly popular Japanese spice mix that dates back to the 17th century in what is now modern-day Tokyo. If you’re thinking this sounds a lot like Chinese Five Spice mix, think again. Where Chinese Five Spice has a rich, concentrated cinnamon and anise flavor, Shichimi Togarashi’s main flavor notes are of spicy peppers and the ocean. The exact mix of spices varies from family to family and amongst different manufacturers, but the classic mixture includes red chili pepper, Sichuan peppercorns, black and white sesame seeds, ground ginger, ground orange peel, and nori (dried seaweed).
Together, the flavors of the various seeds and peppers meld to create a delicious umami taste, with a bit of a spicy kick, which makes it the perfect seasoning for rice bowls, soba noodles, miso soup, and grilled meats and fish. The spice mix heightens the flavors of these dishes in multiple ways—first, the burst of citrus flavor from the orange peel balances the fattiness of the pork, beef, and tuna that form the basis of Japanese grilling, noodle, and rice dishes (as well as the sesame and peanut-based sauces that feature prominently). Meanwhile, the nori adds a deep, robust umami flavor, and the peppers add a pleasant kick without overwhelmingly numbing the tastebuds.
While it has its traditional uses in Japanese cooking, shichimi togarashi also tastes delicious on classic American foods…like french fries. Yup, we went there. In this new recipe for Seared Steak with Shichimi Togarashi Fries, fries get the star treatment with a dusting of the seven spice powder, which taste out of this world when dipped in homemade miso mayo (we told you shichimi togarashi went well with miso, didn’t we?) If you’re on a shichimi togarashi kick, this Japanese Cabbage Salad, and sesame-ginger Chickpea Bowl won’t disappoint, either.
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