Have you heard of the seven Japanese flavors called Shichimi (七味) or Shichimi Togarashi (七味唐辛子)? This famous Japanese seasoning consists of 7 spices and is usually found in several restaurants and very popular in the consumption of soups and noodles. In this article we will talk about this famous Japanese spice and its history.
The word Shichimi (七味) literally means 7 flavors, while Togarashi (唐辛子) literally means chili peppers from the capsicum family. Be careful not to read shichimi (七味) as nanami, some westerners were making this mistake and even selling the spice with the name of nanami which is another way of pronouncing 7 in Japanese.
This expression 7 flavors is not usually specific to seasoning but in several aspects of cooking. This Japanese mixture is totally balanced, there are 7 spices that together produce a spicy seasoning with an elaborate and aromatic flavor, which mixes light burning and flavor at the same time.
What are the seven flavors of Shichimi?
The condiment called shichimi is a mixture of seven different ingredients that may vary by manufacturer. A typical shichimi mixture can contain:
- Red pepper, minced and ground;
- Sansho (Japanese pepper);
- Orange peel (Chenpi);
- Citrus peels;
- Sesame seeds;
- Sesame seeds;
- Ground ginger;
- Nori or Anori;
- Poppy seeds;
- Chilean peppers;
- Cayenne peppers;
- Yuzu, Rape and Shisho husks;
- Chopped garlic;
The spicy seasoning made up of just one ingredient is called Ichimi [一味].
How did Shichimi Togarashi seasoning come about?
The blend of seven flavors is believed to have been around since the 16th century and was produced by herbal traders in Edo (Tokyo). It was in the 16th century that the Chinese possibly took togarashi (chili and pepper) to Japan. Initially the herbs that made shichimi were used for medicinal purposes to cure colds and flu.
There are other theories that Portuguese missionaries may have introduced peppers to Japan around 1605. Others claim that it was Hideyoshi who brought the peppers in 1592 from the Korean peninsula. Pepper cultivation has taken place since 1610, but it was only in 1625 that a trader decided to mix them with medicinal herbs to market them, thus creating the famous shichimi.
More than 400 years have passed and until today the company Yagenbori Shichimi Togarashi is active. The retail store can still be found in Tokyo in Asakusa, where you can find different mild and spicy versions of the famous shichimi.
There is another famous supplier called Shichimiya Honpo that has been in business since 1655 near the Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto. In Nagano since 1720, Yawataya Isogoro sells shichimi near the Zenkoji temple. Of course, today there are thousands of manufacturers of the seven flavors and you can find it in any konbini, restaurant or market.
How to use the seven Japanese flavors
Shichimi is most commonly served at the table as a condiment for Japanese noodle dishes, such as soba and udon, but many people sprinkle on gyudon, miso and even skewers. It is recommended to store the condiment in the refrigerator, although I always find them on display at restaurant tables.
There are differences between the seven flavors according to the region of Japan. In the Kanto region they usually make the seasoning more spicy, while in Kansai the seasoning favors aromatic herbs. You will always find this condiment in most izakayas or kushiyaki-ya.
Preparing your own condiment of seven Japanese flavors is easy, just mix all the ingredients mentioned in the article (well ground) in an amount that you consider suitable for each one. Remembering that the seasoning is dry and should sprinkle and come out as a salt or ground pepper.
We recommend not adding too much Shichimi to the dishes, it may end up getting too spicy or take away the bittersweet flavor of Japanese cuisine. I personally loved Shichimi and I like to put it a lot. Is that you? Have you had a chance to try the seven Japanese flavors? What is your experience?