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David Lissner
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Eat this! Shichimi togarashi, zesty Japanese seasoning

Karma togarashi seared ahi tuna

Karma’s togarashi-seared ahi tuna.

What it is: A zippy Japanese seasoning blend, shichimi togarashi, or seven-spice mix, typically contains red chilies, Szechuan pepper (sansho in Japanese), roasted orange peel, white and black sesame seeds, seaweed and ginger.

Shichimi togarashi.

Shichimi togarashi.

Where it comes from: Red chilies were introduced into Japan in the 16th century, originally as a medicine, and this seasoning blend likely followed soon afterward. Yagenbori Nakajima Shoten, an apothecary established in 1625 in old Edo (now Tokyo), claims to have introduced the blend. The shop, now one of Japan’s most revered spice stores, still exists in the Asakusa district.

Robert Packer

Robert Packer

What to do with it: In Japan, shichimi togarashi typically serves as a table condiment, particularly used to flavor soups and noodles, such as udon and soba. You can also sprinkle it over rice, vegetables, meats, poultry and fish or any food that needs a bit of perking up.

At Karma, a contemporary, Asian-influenced restaurant in Mundelein, Chef Robert Packer uses shichimi togarashi as a coating for lightly seared ahi tuna.

Karma’s togarashi-seared ahi tuna
Chef Robert Packer

Packer serves the tuna around a mound of black rice, accompanied by orange-ponzu cream sauce and light soy-miso sauce.

2 teaspoons shichimi togarashi (available at Asian markets)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 pound fresh ahi tuna, cut into 2 rectangular fillets
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Combine the seasonings well, then coat the tuna with them. In a large, hot saute pan, add the sesame oil, then sear the tuna evenly on all sides till desired doneness.

Remove from the pan, slice and keep warm until serving time. 2 servings.

Orange-ponzu cream sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons mirin wine (available at Asian markets)
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 pound butter, at room temperature
Kosher salt and ground white pepper to taste

Simmer the soy, citrus juices and mirin in a saucepan until reduced by half. Lower the heat, add in the cream and simmer for 2 minutes. Take off stove top and whisk in the soft butter, a little at a time, until dissolved. Season with salt and white pepper. Makes about 2/3 cup.

Soy-miso sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic
1-1/2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 cup light soy
1/4 cup white miso
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon water

In a small saucepan, heat the sesame oil over medium heat and saute the garlic and the ginger for 1 minute. Whisk in the soy, miso, brown sugar and vinegar until the sugar has dissolved.

In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water into a slurry; slowly stir into the soy mixture until it thickens. Makes about 1 cup.

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