When I say old, I mean O L D! As in this spice mix dates back to the 1600s. The first mixes were originally billed as medicine, and were developed shortly after the introduction of red chilies to Japan. Shichi is the Japanese word for “seven.” As you explore the spice racks in the market, you are likely to find another glass jar that looks remarkably similar called nanami togarashi (its the same thing). However, if you see an also familiar looking jar called ichimi togarashi, that is simply pure ground chili powder without all the special extra ingredients. The remaining six ingredients which round out list typically include: Szechuan pepper (sansho in Japanese), roasted orange peel, white and black sesame seeds, seaweed and ginger. Typical being a key word as there is no hard and fast requirements that the these ingredients be used or in what ratio. Some shops in Japan cater to their customers tastes to such an extent that they custom mix the ingredients.
However, some common “go to” standards exist in Japan, and they are:
The Yagenbori shichimi of Tokyo which contains ground chili, both toasted and dried with mustard, sasho, black sesame, poppy seeds, hemp seeds and chinpi (dried peel of citrus fruit which may include mikan, daidai or yuzu)
The Kiyomizu shichimi of Kyoto includes the chilies, shansho, black and white sesame seeds, aonori (seed weed, green laver), shiso (also known as perilla is a member of the mint family and sees multiple uses in the Japanese kitchen) and hemp seeds.
source: A Dictionary of Japanese Food, Ingredients & Culture, by Richard Hoskin 1995
This mix is incredibly versatile and I can attest its hard to go wrong. I love sautéing all the wonderful squash and zucchini of summer and then finishing them with a dash of shichimi togarashi, or simply shichimi for short. If however, you are more of a traditionalist, this spice is commonly associated with soups, noodles, and yakatori.
Shichmi togarashi via Dining Chicago (recipe from Chef Robert Parker)
Make your own - a recipe from Food.com
spicy mango salad from Herbivoracious