Ever since I was a little girl, there has always been that familiar little bottle in our spice cabinet, wrapped in a reddish-orange label that made it easy to identify and hold in my little kid hands. Shichimi Togarashi went into or onto everything, whether it was sprinkled on a simple bowl of steamed rice, added to the chicken and bok choy recipe that my father stir-fried in the kitchen on winter evenings, or layered in with the mackerel and served with grated daikon.
As I grew up, I have seen it appear in more areas than traditional Japanese cuisine. Take the Bloody Mary (or Maria) bar, for example. The cocktail is a great place to incorporate spice and flavor in new and versatile ways. The Japanese seven spice—made up of orange or yuzu peel; black, white, and toasted sesame seeds; cayenne or chili pepper; ginger, Szechuan pepper, and nori—not only allows the flavor of the core ingredients to come through, but it adds that subtle heat and essence unique to the blend.
The recipe of seven ingredients itself can vary based on need, palate, and brand with garlic, hemp seeds, poppy seeds, or many other flavor alternatives swapped into the mix as well. Included with vegetables or fruit—raw or cooked, salad or stew—the unique partnership of flavors offers plenty of value for menus everywhere. Use with traditional and plant-based proteins? I am going to say yes, that is pretty much a given.
The nice thing about a spice that offers a range of flavors for the sweet or savory dish is that there is room for experimentation, whether you begin by adding it into a bowl of ramen, spice up BBQ sauce, or add it to your mushroom-blended burger patty.
From food truck to fine dining, I would love to see this pop up more often on menus across demographics and cuisines. And maybe for produce departments, there are a few cross-merchandising opportunities for summer grilling, fresh-cut fruit, or veg accompaniments. The options are limitless as is the imagination.
The spice of life takes on many shapes, sizes, and in this case, flavors.