Shichimi Togarashi

Shichimi Togarashi
A Unique Japanese Spice Blend

Using shichimi togarashi in cooking fusion cuisine

Shichimi Togarashi, used by Bruioza in
Prize-Winning Pork Recipe

You see it on the table in Japanese restaurants and on the shelves in Asian markets.  The spice Shichimi Togarashi  七味唐辛子,  is usually packed in a distinctive little round red tin.

There may even be some in your kitchen and you may use it with one or more dishes.  Perhaps noodles.  Or eggs.

Shichimi Togarashi is a spicy seasoning blend commonly sold in Japan and in Asian markets everywhere.  It’s used in many Japanese dishes as a seasoning, usually added at the table by the person eating.

The name means literally “Seven Flavors Chinese Chili Pepper,” and the mixture typically does contain roughly seven or more ingredients.

Since the name says “Seven Flavors”, what are the seven flavors?

Are there really seven of them and how did they get combined in this mixture?

So, does the spice mixture really come from China then?

And how does Seven Flavors Chinese Chili Pepper differ from Chinese Five Spice mixture?  Do the two blends overlap somehow? Some answers – First, the phrase “Chinese Chili Pepper” contains the Japanese word to, meaning ‘pertaining to the Tang Dynasty,’ a word commonly used to designate Chinese things in the old days.

Chili pepper was thought to come from China, so it was called “Chinese Chili Pepper.”  Nowadays, the spice mixture is mostly made of Japanese locally sourced products, including the chili pepper

A typical blend might contain coarsely ground red chili peppers — its main ingredient — plus additional spices like:

  • Sichuan pepper
  • orange peel
  • black sesame seed
  • white sesame seed
  • hemp seed
  • ground ginger root and
  • seaweed (nori)

Other ingredients sometimes found in it are:

  • poppy seeds
  • peel of the yuzu citrus fruit
  • dried shiso (perilla) leaves and
  • rape seed

So most of the needed ingredients would probably come from sources in Japan, including possibly the chili pepper.  But the Sichuan pepper would still come from China.

Comparison with Five Spices: The Chinese spice blend called Five Spices or sometimes Five Fragrance spice powder is composed of

  • star anise
  • Sichuan pepper
  • fennel
  • cloves
  • cinnamon

So there are a couple of ingredients in common.

The two mixes are basically different: Shichimi Togarashi is basically a chili pepper mix with additional aromatics. Chinese Five Fragrance powder is basically a fragrant-aromatic mix, like cinnamon with added notes.

What Does It Taste Life? The flavor is spicy, like the red chili pepper that is the main ingredient.  But it has an additional subtle aroma and flavor from the added seeds and other aromatic ingredients.  It is thought to bring out the clean, simple flavors of Japanese food and also to go well with fatty foods.

Shichimi, to use its common shortened name, is used in a variety of dishes, including soups and noodles and is also added by makers of some traditional snacks, such as roasted rice crackers.  Some people feel it goes well with foods like broiled eel, tempura, and grilled chicken.

Is This a New Product? Shichimi has been around a long time, and dates from around the 17th century, when some herb dealers in old Edo — today’s Tokyo — started to blend it.

Shichimi is often associated with certain of the ancient Buddhist temples of Japan and frequently sold in shops near those temples. For example, Zenkoji in Nagno, Kiyomizu in Kyoto and Sensoji in the Asakusa district of Tokyo.

The flavor and aroma, the traditional packing, it’s all redolent of the style of old Edo or Yedo, before it was called Tokyo.  Often the places where shichimi is sold are ancient spice shops in the areas around some of the oldest and most atmospheric temples of old Japan.

Temples like the big Kannon Temple in Asakusa, or Zenkoji in Nagano or the oldest of them all, Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto.

Today you’ll likely see shichimi togarashi sold at a traditional sold at a traditional shop in Nagano in the rows of shops leading to Zenkoji, the main Zen temple there. It is dispensed in tiny cans and also wrapped in paper packets. [1]

Does this spice only go with traditional Japanese foods then, or does it have any other use?  Some people like it on eggs, boiled, fried or any other way.  And there is an unusual preparation by an American chef using pork with shichimi.  We’ll come back to that one.

Where to Get Shichimi? You can get it from Asian markets or you can make your own.  There are recipes available online, such as Aliza Green’s Guide to Herbs & Spices. [2]

Reliable Source: The spice is also available by mail, in small jars or tins and plastic bags. For example, from suppliers like The Spice House. Most Asian stores stock Shichimi Togarashi. too. [3]

A Good Brand: One is from SB Foods Co., whose brand is called Nanami Togarashi. There are many good brands available on the market.  Good sources of supply also include supermarkets like Nijiya Market, Super H Mart and Mitsuwa Marketplace, which often stock several brands. [4, 5, 6, 7]

Health Aspects: Since Shichimi has no salt, it may be of interest to persons concerned about sodium levels and hypertension.

From Yedo Age to Cyberspace: On the cans of Yawataya Shichimi, amid the traditional writing and design, you will find in small letters: yawataya.co.jp. [8]

A check on the Internet shows that this most traditional of companies is in fact now in Cyberspace.  Quite a transition for a company rooted in the Edo Era.

Yawataya, of Nagano City, began in the early 18th century when the founder began selling his spice blend on the grounds of the great Zenkoji Temple in Nagao.

The company has operated an online shop since the year 2000 and has diversified in the sense that is is now making confectionery proudcs which incorporate Shichimi in their formula.

A Fusion Dish: While Shichimi Togarashi is usually associated with Japanese style dishes, some non-Japanese cooks have experimented with using it in Western or Fusion cuisine.  An example — chef Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions in San Francisco created a recipe for Glazed Pork Ribs with Shichimi Togarashi The recipe was printed in Bon Appetit magazine and is also available online. [9]

For Further Information:

[1] “”Shichimi Togarashi” article, Wikipedia, for extensive detailed history of the product. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shichimi
[2] Aliza Green, Field Guide to Herbs & Spices, Online at Amazon –
[3] The Spice House, 1512 North Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60010, USA, tel. 312.274.0378.http://www.thespicehouse.com/?gclid=CMeZ0uTUi7MCFQVgMgodOQ4A5A
[4] S & B Foods, Inc., 1-3-2 Hatchobori, Chuo-ku, tokyo 104-0032 Japan Tel 03-3555-1277 Fax 03-3537-2150 — http://www.sbfoods.co.jp/eng/

[5] Nijiya Market, Los Angeles, CA, USA, which also has an online store — http://www.nijiya.com/
[6] Super H Mart, http://www.hmart.com/company_new/shop_main.aspUSA —
[7] Mitsuwa Marketplace, various addresses in North America — http://www.mnitsuwa.com/english/
[8] Yawataya Co., Ltd., Nagano City, JapanHhttp://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2012/09/glazed-pork-ribs-with-shichimi-togarashi

Kenkyusha’s standard Japanese dictionary describes Togarashi  唐辛子, as: guinea pepper, cayenne pepper, red bird pepper, capsicum, Capsicum annum. Prof. Shinmura’s big lexicon Kojien defines Shichimi Togarashi   唐辛子,  as “cayenne pepper having seven colors.

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3 thoughts on “Shichimi Togarashi

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