Shichimi togarashi: Everything you need to know

Shichimi togarashi is a Japanese blend of at least seven ingredients.
Shichimi togarashi is a Japanese blend of at least seven ingredients. Photo: Richard Cornish

What is it?

The Japanese equivalent of zaatar, shichimi togarashi is a blend of seven ingredients that typically include red chilli, seaweed, orange zest, ginger, sesame seeds and sansho, a spicy powder made from the dried and crushed seeds of the prickly ash, similar to Sichuan pepper. It is sold in glass bottles, some not much larger than a lipstick case.

Why do we love it?

A fragrant array of top notes, the rich citrus of orange, the lean but energetic zing of ginger, the lingering heat and the earthy buzz from sansho, the crunch of sesame, and the underlying umami bass notes of seaweed, a small sprinkle onto a dish boosts its flavour up a notch or 10.

Who uses it?

Chef Aaron Schembri from Daylesford restaurant Kadota spent three years working in Japan. "There was a woman on the way to a temple who was making togarashi from ingredients she picked and dried herself," he says. "For her, it was about the harmony of the blend. For me, it's about the flavours of spring and summer."

Schembri sprinkles the seasoning (top left) over yakitori skewers.
Schembri sprinkles the seasoning (top left) over yakitori skewers. Photo: William Meppem

Schembri is sourcing ingredients to make his own blend to serve on white fish sashimi. "It has the power to brighten the darkest flavours, like grilled skewers of wagyu beef yakitori – it cuts through, freshening up the dish with heat and citrus tang."

How do you use it?

Sparingly. It packs a punch. In Japan, it brings a zing to everyday dishes from udon noodles to rice and eggs.

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Togarashi thrives on the warmth of hot dishes to unlock its aromas, so try it on grilled chicken and meats.

Consider a warm winter vegetable salad with miso, lemon and shoyu (Japanese soy) dressing and finish with a sprinkle of togarashi.

You can make a spice rub using togarashi, salt and oil and massage this into small strips of chicken, fish or beef – foods that will cook quickly.

Where do you get it?

Supermarkets and Asian grocers stock House and S & B brands. Spice master Herbies makes togarashi with lemon myrtle.