When it comes to spicy condiments in Japanese cuisine, the first thing people may think of is wasabi (わさび). Some people may argue that wasabi is not technically spicy since it does not burn the tongue and throat, but instead, causes a slight stinging sensation in the nose. Nevertheless, wasabi is a favorite condiment among those who love to have their food enhanced with some spiciness, and is popular on sushi or even as an ice cream flavor!
Did you know that there are other spicy condiments in Japan which you can add to your food? Although wasabi seems to be the national favorite, there are various spicy condiments for you to try!
If you have learned some basics in Japanese, you might be aware that “shichi” (七) means “seven”. This spicy condiment is called shichimi togarashi as it is a mixture of seven different types of spices. Shichimi togarashi literally means “seven flavors of chili pepper”.
The condiment was originally sold in herbal medicine shops in the 17th century. The common blend of shichimi togarashi typically includes roasted orange peel, hemp seed, nori or aonori (seaweed), black sesame seed, white sesame seed, ground sansho (Japanese pepper), ground ginger, and the main ingredient being coarsely ground red chili pepper. Sometimes, some of the ingredients may be substituted with yuzu peel, poppy seed, rapeseed, or shiso.
Due to a mixture of several ingredients, it has a complex taste which is often added to noodles and soups. It is also often used as seasonings on rice-based snacks such as rice crackers and rice cakes.
If shichimi togarashi literally means “seven flavors of chili pepper”, then it would be easy to guess that ichimi togarashi means “one flavor of chili pepper”. Ichimi togarashi is straight up ground red chili pepper, so it does not have such a complex taste. It adds a subtle sweetness and spiciness to any dishes.
Ichimi togarashi’s simplicity makes it a very versatile ingredient that is commonly added to soups, udon, soba, ramen, sushi, and meat. Ichimi togarashi is a popular condiment in Japan that can be found easily in restaurants and supermarkets. This is a very mild condiment for those who are not used to eating very spicy food but want to zazz up their meals with extra flavor.
Yuzu is a citrus fruit grown in East Asia that resembles a grapefruit with an uneven skin. Depending on the degree of ripeness, the color of yuzu ranges from yellow to green. Yuzu has an aromatic fragrance with musky, herbaceous, and spicy notes.
Yuzu kosho is a spicy Japanese paste that is made by combining yuzu, chilies, and salt. The chilies used in making yuzu kosho are usually green or red Thai or bird’s eye chilies which make the condiment spicy. Yuzu kosho goes very well with meat. It can also be added to soups, desserts, noodles and vegetable dishes to enhance their flavor with its aromatic acidity. Due to its versatility, some Western chefs even add it to salads and pastas!
So next time you’re dining out in Japan, why not give the above spicy condiments a try? Those who love spiciness would definitely love to experiment with these on their food. Let us know your experience after trying them out!
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