Togarashi (Japan) referring to the Japanese word for chiles, is a group of table additions, always including chiles, that bring out the clean and simple flavors of Japanese food. It is one of the most popular seasonings in Japan. 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 Togarashi blend. The shop, now one of Japan's most revered spice stores, still exists in the Asakusa district. Chile peppers contain capsaicin, a chemical that induces warmth, so you can stick it in your shoe or mitten to keep toes and fingers warm. It is apparently also useful for keeping rice from becoming bug-infested. Capsaicin has also been tested on rats for things like pain relief, cancer cell reduction, diabetes prevention, and weight loss. Togarashi is used to add both heat and flavor to dishes such as soba noodles, udon, beef tataki, jasmine rice. It works well with fatty foods such as unagi (broiled eel), tempuras, shabu shabu (small bits of food cooked in rich broth), noodle dishes, and yakitori (grilled dishes). Our personal favorite is mixing togarashi with sesame oil and tamari as a marinade for salmon, and especially beef tenderloin.

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