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Shichimi togarashi is a coarsely-ground, seven-spice seasoning blend that is widely used in Japanese cuisine. Red chili peppers are the primary ingredient in the shichimi togarashi spice mixture. Other ingredients vary according to region and manufacturer, but usually include sansho peppercorns, dried citrus peel and either sesame seeds or hemp seeds. Depending on the blend, other components may include ginger, garlic and dried seaweed.
The Japanese name “shichimi togarashi” translates to “seven-flavor chili pepper.” “Shichi” is the word for “seven,” “mi” means flavor and “togarashi” is the Japanese word for “red pepper.” “Nana” is an alternate word for "seven,” and certain similar spice blends are called “nanami togarashi.” The spice called “ichimi togarashi” means “one flavor” and is made with red pepper only.
The red chili peppers used in shichimi togarashi are usually of the Capsicum annuum variety. Capsicum annuum conoides, also known as the cone pepper, may also be used. Sansho, the seed pod of the Japanese prickly ash, is the other pepper component in the shichimi togarashi blend. Sansho is in the same family as Sichuan peppercorns, which may be used as a substitute.
Shichimi togarashi also contains ground seeds. Dried hemp seeds are common in many blends. Sesame seeds are also used and may be either black, white or both. Poppy seeds and mustard seeds may also be used.
The citrus component also varies according to the individual blend. Only the dried or roasted peel of the fruit is used. Mandarin oranges, known in Japan as “mican,” are the most common choice. A lemon-like Japanese citrus fruit called “yuzu” may be used instead. Lemon and tangerine are other possible substitutes.
Another common ingredient in shichimi togarashi is nori, the dried laver of the algae Porphyra tenera. The sheets of nori, which are commonly used to make sushi rolls, are ground into coarse flakes for the togarashi blend. Some varieties of shichimi togarashi also include ground ginger or minced garlic.
In Japan, there are two well-known styles of shichimi togarashi. Yagenbori, which is popular in Tokyo, contains the basic components of togarashi, sansho peppers and citrus peel as well as all four seed varieties. The Kyomizu blend, common to Kyoto, contains the basic pepper and citrus components along with nori, hemp seeds and both types of sesame seeds. In Japanese cuisine, shichimitogarashi is used to season many dishes, especially noodles, stews and fried or grilled foods.