Japanese seven-spice powder, a Pantry Special (Recipe: chicken yakitori)
Pantry Specials are great ingredients that find their way into my pantry from time to time, but not all the time.
You've probably heard of Chinese five-spice powder, a pungent blend of star anise, clove, fennel, cinnamon and Szechuan peppercorns. The Japanese have gone one -- no, two spices -- better, with shichimi togarashi, or Japanese seven-spice powder. Also known as shichi, it's one of the most popular table condiments, trendy in Japan and now gaining popularity in the West, where small bowls of it sit on restaurant tables next to the soy sauce. Used to add both heat and flavor to soup, noodles and rice, Japanese seven-spice combines orange or tangerine peel, black and white sesame seeds, cayenne, ground ginger, Szechuan pepper and nori. Sometimes the blend contains poppy seeds or hemp seeds, but the basic seven spices remain pretty much the same. The bite of citrus with the kick of red pepper, Szechuan pepper and ginger hits the back of your tongue with a bright, full flavor, like a very fresh but much more interesting black pepper.
Is this Pantry Special new to you?
As close as I've ever come to the yakitori Ted and I first tasted in Tokyo, this recipe, adapted from Japanese Light: Heart-Friendly, Age-Defying Recipes from the World's Healthiest Cuisine, ends with a surprise: the peppery bite of Japanese seven-spice powder. Yakitori is the most popular bar food in Japan, and would be great with cold beer on a hot summer night. Truly, it's the best chicken-on-a-stick you've ever tasted. Serves 6 as an appetizer.
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup sake
1 Tbsp sugar
Japanese seven-spice powder
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise into 12 strips
12 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least one hour
Stir together the soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar in a nonreactive bowl. Add the chicken strips and marinate for at least 2 hours, and up to 8 hours.
Preheat the broiler and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil to catch the drips (and make clean-up easier). Thread each strip of chicken onto a skewer, and place on the baking sheet. Brush with the marinade. Cook for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and turn the skewers. Baste again with the marinade. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Brush one more time with marinade, cook for 1 minute, and remove from the oven. While the chicken is warm, sprinkle with Japanese seven-spice powder.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Other recipes that use Japanese seven-spice powder:
Seven spice mahi-mahi, from Coconut & Lime
Seven spice ice cream with yogurt and brown sugar cake, from Cannelle et Vanille
Japanese beef on rice bowl, from Noobcook
Green tea soba noodles with dipping sauce, from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once