You’re unlikely to find yourself eating ramen at a Japanese restaurant without a bowl of Shichimi Togarashi, a brightly coloured spice, sitting in the condiment caddy.
Should you sprinkle some out on your hand, you’ll see a vast array of colours and shapes – dark reds from chilli peppers, crinkly greens from nori, bright oranges from the citrus, and crushed white and blacks from the sesame seeds. Featuring a spicy sweetness that’s quite unlike other seasonings, shichimi togarashi can add quite a kick and aroma to dishes needing something more.
Whether you’re levelling up your ramen bowl or everyday breakfast scramble, let us tell you why shichimi togarashi is the next necessity to your spice pantry.
Shichimi togarashi is a Japanese seasoning or spice blend that contains around seven flavours blended – its name translates roughly to ‘7 spices’, with “shichi” meaning “seven” and “mi” meaning “taste”; “togarashi” is Japanese dried red chilli. There are variations to the formula depending on which region in Japan you travel to – often, more than seven spices are included. The spice is informally referred to as togarashi, however for the purposes of this piece, we’ll call it shichimi to distinguish it from the others.
There are two other popular Japanese seasonings which could be considered cousins in the togarashi flavour family: Ichimi togarashi and Nanami togarashi. Both Ichimi and Nanami togarashi blends contain chilli pepper as their core element (ichimi togarashi meaning “single chilli pepper”, is actually just a red chilli pepper), but the strength of the citrus presence is what distinguishes shichimi from the others.
The common spices used are dried chilli flakes mixed with sansho (a pepper with tastes similar to lemon myrtle, with citrus overtones), sesame seeds, orange peel, dried ginger, seaweed (nori) and several distinct spices. In our version, shichimi togarashi contains a medley of single-origin spices, including many of the above, though opts for Sichuan peppercorns rather than sansho for the lingering, peppery heat. Each of our ingredients brings a distinct flavour profile to the colourful blend.
It’s traditionally used as a condiment, sprinkled across Japanese dishes like miso, udon and ramen soups as well as nabemono (one-pot dishes) and yakitori (skewered meat). Its versatility extends beyond its traditional uses – in recent times, this spice blend has found its way onto breakfast hash, tacos, grilled meats and even scattered over avocado smash.
The classic application of shichimi is in your Japanese soups: add flavour by topping your miso and udon soups, and ramen, with shichimi flakes. Ramen with Miso Grilled Chicken and Ramen with Chashu Pork are the best examples of how to classically use this blend, but you can go a little left of center and even try it in a Spicy Laksa. In particular, grilled meats (known as yakitori in Japanese) are best served with shichimi. Our Miso Grilled Chicken recipe uses a mix of Oishii Instant Ramen Blend and olive oil to coat the chicken before it’s grilled. Once ready, serve it with a sprinkle of shichimi for its elevated and slow heat.
It pairs exceptionally well with seafood: our recipe for Miso Butter Pippies features shichimi. First, these clams are covered with a butter mixture and then using garlic, ginger, miso and shichimi, you can bring an umami-rich coating to these delightful little bites. Shichimi is a versatile spice. For example, Polenta Chips dipped in Togarashi Mayo make for an excellent snack. Make a spicy mayonnaise medley by adding shichimi to a few tablespoons of mayonnaise; the gentle citrus flavours will bring balance to your mayonnaise.
Warmth, pepperiness and a satisfying crunch – these are the sensations you’re playing with when you’re adding shichimi togarashi to your dish.
It's applied just as simply across avocado toast as it is with Japanese ramen. Experiment beyond the norm and try flavouring your everyday plain rice or steamed vegetables with this seasoning, too.