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七味唐がらし

Literally "seven-flavor-pepper", shichimi-togarashi (or just shichimi) is a Japanese spice blend used to flavor everything from soba noodles to yakitori chicken. In the same way that Western restaurants have salt and pepper at each table, most Japanese eateries will have a shaker of shichimi at each table. Shichimi-togarashi is unusual in being hot, since Japanese food is generally quite mild (with the obvious exception of wasabi). This is also the reason why high-class Japanese restaurants will not use or have shichimi, since it would thoroughly obliterate the flavor of delicate foods like sashimi.

As you might expect, the identity of the 7 spices tends to change depending on the chef, but here are some of the more common suspects:

If you counted 9 in that table, you're absolutely correct. Pick your favorites! (I would leave out the ginger and the white sesame.) To prepare your own, blend roughly equal proportions of each ingredient (but double the cayenne) and grind coarsely.

Incidentally, due to the popularity of shichimi, just plain red pepper (togarashi) is now also known with the somewhat redundant name ichimi-togarashi, "one-flavor-spice".

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