Shichimi: what it is, how to use it and where to buy it

Shichimi: what it is, how to use it and where to buy it

We often prepare our best dishes and, after a lot of effort and preparation time, when we taste them, we feel that something is missing.

In Spain we have some wildcard spices that can be used to enhance the flavours of dishes such as black pepper, garlic and onion powder, bay leaf, rosemary… However, in oriental cuisine they have a star ingredient to spice up their recipes and we are sure that once you get to know it, you will always want to have it in your pantry: shichimi. Today at Oriental Market we tell you all about Japan’s star condiment.

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What is shichimi?

Shichimi tōgarashi, also known as “seven-flavoured chilli”, is a spice blend that originated in Korea. It is made up of elements such as red pepper powder (tōgarashi) and tangerine zest, which is why it has such an orangey colour. White or black sesame seeds, poppy seeds, hemp seeds, chopped nori seaweed and Sichuan pepper are also added. However, there are variations as in some places it is made with garlic and ginger.

All in all, shichimi can be defined as a mixture of traditional Japanese spices. They are all placed together in a jar, underground, and lactic acid bacteria grow and ferment. After this process, the shichimi develops its own flavour.

Where to buy shichimi

Due to the boom in Asian cuisine in recent years, shichimi has become available in more and more supermarkets. Today, it is possible to buy this product both in large supermarkets and in specialised shops such as Oriental Market.

  Typical South Korean food

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In the past, it was shichimien at home and left to rest in the fridge, but nowadays it is usually bought in supermarkets. It is mainly used to flavour soups, white meat dishes and various rice dishes.

All seven ingredients are used to prepare it, especially Sichuan pepper, which adds a different but delicious taste to the dish, particularly to grilled meats, pastas, rice dishes and soups. Its spicy flavour is diluted by the fruity fragrances, while the combination of ginger and Sichuan reinforces the aroma.

The origins of shichimi go back at least 400 years. It is believed to have been created in the 17th century by apothecaries, just as chilli began to be introduced to Japan as a new form of medicine.

Korean ancestors wanted to achieve a balance between health and nutrition, so they decided to make shichimi to incorporate the nutrients of fresh vegetables even in the colder seasons.

What are the benefits of shichimi?

The nutritional values of shichimi tōgarashi are linked to the raw materials and ingredients used. Therefore, this food has different properties derived from all its components:

  • Sichuan pepper: helps with nasal congestion, blood circulation, reduces muscle pain and facilitates weight loss.
  • Sesame seeds: they are high in vitamins and minerals and help prevent diabetes, and are excellent for the heart and lungs.
  • Ginger: aids digestion, reduces joint pain and prevents colds.
  • Nori seaweed: has a high iodine and iron content, ideal for improving thyroid and red blood cell production.

Types of shichimi togarashi

Brands and restaurants have decided to get creative with shichimi and have added their special ingredient. If you are someone who likes to explore the taste of different spices, you should try the many variations of shichimi. Here are some of the most popular types of shichimi togarashi:

  • Yuzu shichimi togarashi: yuzu is a type of citrus fruit that is common in East Asia, it features a sour and aromatic taste. In Japan, yuzu is very popular, it can be found in any kind of dish or drink. In this case, yuzu shichimi has a spicier taste. Due to the citrus aroma, yuzu shichimi can be a great condiment for salads.
  • Sansho shichimi togarashi: sansho is a Japanese pepper. Specifically, sansho shichimi uses more Japanese pepper to achieve a more intense flavour, compared to traditional shichimi. Some brands also add perilla leaves to amplify the aroma of sansho shichimi. This type of shichimi is mainly used to sprinkle on top of fried or grilled food.
  Typical South Korean food

What can you eat with shichimi togarashi?

There are several ways to consume shichimi. The best way to enjoy this seasoning is in noodles, e.g. udon, ramen or soba. Also, dishes containing soups or sauces such as boiled tofu and gyudon, or meats such as yakitori, grilled chicken. It also goes well with soups, side dishes and main dishes.

Shichimi has many options, it can be added to a sauce, broth or even plain rice, it can be sprinkled on almost anything. Usually, shichimi togarashi is combined with Japanese food. But of course, it is also compatible with many western cuisines such as: fried chicken, Chips, barbecue, soup, salad, popcorn and many others. It really depends on how you want to enjoy your food and how creative you are in using shichimi.

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