24 Jul / Japanese Spice Blends + Spicy Gomashio Soba Recipe
Many cultures around the world use spice blends and mixtures in their cooking. Some popular ones are French herbes de provence, Jamaican jerk spice and Mexican adobo. Asian cooking in particular relies heavily on spice mixtures. Can you imagine a world without Indian curry powder or Chinese 5-spice? I can’t!
That being said, because Japanese cuisine emphasizes the pure flavor of foods, aromatics and spices are used in moderation, with the exception of a select few spice blends.
The most popular spice blend is shichimi togarashi. Togarashi means ‘chilies,’ hence ichimi togarashi refers to plain ground chilies while shichimi is chili with six more ingredients (hence it’s English name, seven-spice powder).
The blend often comprises: white and black sesame seeds, dried tangerine peel, nori flakes (aonori), hot chili flakes, sansho, and poppy seeds. Depending on the region, variations to this formula include shiso (perilla), yuzu peel, mustard seeds and hemp seeds. Sometimes, more than seven ingredients may also be blended together but the name doesn’t change.
At Japanese restaurants, you’ll often be given shichimi togarashi in a small shaker bottle to sprinkle over nabeyaki or tempura udon. Shichimi is also delicious over other soup-based dishes like shabu shabu, unagi (broiled eel), yakitori (grilled dishes).
Then there is nanami togarashi, a close cousin with similar ingredients but in different proportions, and heavy on the citrus.
Thanks to Raw Spice Bar, I recently discovered gomashio (‘goma’ means sesame and gomashio means sesame seed salt). For $6/month, Raw Spice Bar will send you three small batch, freshly ground spice blends (plus recipes!) developed in-house that vary according to region monthly. Recent spice blends roamed the world from Japan to Peru to the Indian state of Punjab.
Several months ago, they sent me a Japanese-themed set with shichimi togarashi, a matcha-and-chia mix for mochi, and said gomashio.
Gomashio is very simple—just black and white sesame seeds coarsely ground together with salt and sometimes dried chilies. This mix is usually sprinkled over rice and salads but you could add it to edamame, sauteed greens, popcorn or use it as a crust for salmon or tofu.
Debra Samuels, bento expert and author of My Japanese Table, advises that since toppings like shichimi togarashi and gomashio are highly-flavored, they usually go with something bland. Debra likes them over rice, donburi, as well as crackers with cream cheese. In fact, they can top any dish that goes into a bento box!
Raw Spice Bar is giving away a 6-month membership to one lucky winner! To enter, please subscribe to the Pickles and Tea blog (scroll down to the very bottom) and tell us about your favorite Asian spice mix or blend in the comments section below. We’ll randomly select a winner and post the results after the deadline.
Last day to enter: Friday, August 7th, 2015.
Sorry, but we can only mail to U.S. addresses.
~~~[yumprint-recipe id=’14’]Disclosure: I was given a complimentary set of spices by Raw Spice Bar but all opinions expressed in this post are my own.