Shichimi togarashi, more commonly known as just shichimi, is a popular spice blend found in most Japanese restaurants across the globe. It translates to seven spice blend because it is typically comprised of a mixture of seven ingredients. Togarashi is the Japanese name for Capsicum annum, the red chili pepper that gives this pepper blend its spiciness.
Varieties of Shichimi
Many different variations of shichimi exist since each supplier makes their own unique blend, however a typical blend will include red chili pepper, sansho (similar to Sichuan peppercorns), hemp seeds and/or poppy seeds, white sesame seeds and/or black sesame seeds, ground ginger, mandarin orange peels, and nori seaweed. There can also be substitutes such as yuzu peel, rapeseed, or shiso.
History of Shichimi
The creation of this popular Japanese spice blend is said to date back to at least the 17th century. However, no one really knows how Capsicum annum ended up in Japan. One theory says Portuguese missionaries may have introduced the pepper to Japan around 1605, while another is that Japanese troops brought it back after a military expedition to the Korean peninsula in 1592.
What we do know is that this flavorful import was grown in Japan from around 1610 and was initially used as medicine. Then in 1625, a merchant named Tokuemon from the Edo era decided to blend other spices and herbs with medicinal properties, and market the product as a healthy but tasty additive to food. The product was a success and he opened a company called Yagenbori Shichimi Togarashi which is still in business to this day.
How to Use Shichimi
Shichimi is a versatile topping and can be added to a lot of things. It is usually provided on tables for diners to add to taste and spice to their dishes. It’s most commonly offered as a condiment for Japanese noodle dishes such as ramen and udon but is also sprinkled on top of rice bowls like gyudon, yakitori, traditional stews, and miso soup.
Try our Hontaka Shichimi Togarshi which includes a rare, domestic Japanese chili pepper called kagawa hontaka, which was the first variety to come to Japan 400 years ago. The heat from this ruby colored chili pepper doesn’t tingle, but is mellow and spreads slowly, providing a unique taste and fragrance that can’t be found outside of Japan.
About the author:
Samantha is currently a 5th-year JET in Okinawa, originally from Hawaii. She has been somewhat connected to Japanese culture her whole life despite being Chinese American. She's had the privilege of traveling to Japan and experiencing Japanese culture at a young age. She loves food and is always looking to try new places. When she is not working or out eating, she is an avid baker at home and has been known to feed her colleagues an excessive amount of baked goods.