Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice powder)

Japan has its own historically vegan cuisine, called shojin ryori, developed hundreds of years ago in Buddhist temples, and at one time eaten not only in the temples but among the highest nobles of the land as well. In the introduction to her book The Enlightened Kitchen: Fresh Vegetable Dishes from the Temples of Japan, Mari Fujii stresses the use of fresh seasonal produce and dried foodstuffs, mindful preparation, little waste. "Salt, soy sauce, mirin, and miso are the basic seasonings. Fragrance is added to dishes with ingredients such as the winter citrus fruit yuzu, the herbs sansho and shiso, and sesame oil…I always find that vegetables are perfectly delicious eaten on their own, with just a little seasoning."

Tonight's meal is in that spirit. I made most of it up, in fact, from suggestions in this book or that, and from ingredients that looked fresh and appetizing in the grocery store today. Another thing I did buy was Japanese seven-spice chili pepper, shichimi togarashi, which contains red chili powder, pepper, dried citrus peel, poppy seeds, hemp seeds, and dried seaweed. It's used much like we use black pepper, and is delicious, not as hot as cayenne pepper but still with some heat and with a slight citrus taste, the other flavours coming through as a faint, mysterious, and interesting combination (by comparison, I find Chinese five-spice powder overpowering). It's part of one of two more little sauce recipes by Kimiko Barber that I made today. It's amazing to me how each one can be so different, yet have so few ingredients and be so easy to make. I'm giving them out because they are so very simple, and also to encourage you to buy her book, The Japanese Kitchen. Over and over I repeat: it is worth it!

Karasi joyu (spicy soy glaze)

4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp saki
2-4 tsp shichimi togarashi

Mix together and use. I marinated pressed tofu slices in it, then brushed with sesame oil and baked at 400F for about 10 minutes.

Goma dare

3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp mirin
3 tbsp soy sauce

Fresh toasted sesame seeds are the secret to this sauce. If you've never toasted them yourself before, nothing could be easier. Just measure them out into a dry frying pan (cast iron is great), heat to medium heat, flipping and turning all the time until some of them start turning brown and the smell is divine; remove them from the pan immediately so they don't burn! For the sauce, grind everything up in a blender or Magic Bullet until you get the texture you like. This is the little sauce on the baked tofu.

Otherwise, what you see in this meal is eggplant peeled, cubed, and fried in canola oil with some of yesterday's miso-lemon sauce and topped with watercress leaves; brown rice mixed with quick fried broccoli rabe, chopped avocado, and the rest of the wasabi sauce, again from yesterday, plus slices of acorn squash brushed with oil and baked with the tofu, and finally given a coating of sweet miso paste (also from Kimiko Barber's book) and broiled just a little more.

Simple, seasonal, spicy, and good! Since I had the rice already cooked, it also came together very quickly.


  1. That squash is making my mouth water!

  2. That looks awesome. I'm really interested in this recipe book, not heard of it before. I'm gonna borrow my mums library ticket and go see what the local library has on offer in the way of cook books!

  3. Hahaha - my word verification was cohort! How appropriate.

  4. I love shichimi togarashi! I love Kombucha! Ah..can't stop commenting on these posts.