Sunday, June 11, 2023


Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love spices and that I love to make spice mixes. I also like to learn about spice mixes, as this blog shows. I have made spice mixes based on historical recipes, such as Kitchen Pepper. I have also made spice mixes from around the world including, by way of example, Hawayil from Yemen, Suya from Ghana, and Nine Spice Mix from Palestine. 

This post offers me a chance to make a spice mix from Japan. The mix is known as Togarashi or Shichimi Togarashi. 

The story begins during Japan's Edo Period, around 1625 C.E. which happens to be around the time that chile peppers were introduced in Japan. The place was the Yagenbori Herb Shop. The shop was located in the Higashi-Nihonbashi district of Tokyo. It is at this shop where the first mixture was made. At the time, it was referred to as yagenbori, after the shop. It was used principally for medicinal purposes. Over time, however, the mix made its way into the kitchen for culinary uses. 

Togarashi is typically prepared from seven ingredients (and, hence, why it is also referred to as Shichimi Togarashi, as Shichimi is "seven" and "Togarashi" is "peppers" in Japanese). The seven ingredients may vary slightly by region, but it typically includes red pepper, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, nori (or anori), sancho (a Japanese pepper) and orange peel.  Notwithstanding the variations, there is one thing that remains constant. There can only be seven ingredients. Any additional ingredient will result in Hachimi. That's a different blog post.


Recipe from the Daring Gourmet


  • 2 tablespoons red chile flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried orange peel
  • 2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 nori sheet, toasted over open flame, crumbled


1. Toast the seeds. In a dry skillet, lightly toast the white and black sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and Sichuan peppercorns until fragrant, being careful not to burn them. Transfer to a bowl and let them cool completely. 

2. Prepare the spice mixture. Place all of the ingredients, along with the nori, in a spice/coffee grinder and pulse until coarsely ground. It should be coarse and not a fine powder. 

3. Store the mixture. Store in an airtight jar. For best results, use within a few weeks. 

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Swahili Fish with Creamy Coconut Sauce

There is a small island along the shore of the Kenyan coastline called Lamu. The island has the oldest and best preserved Swahili settlement in eastern Africa. The settlement - Lamu Old Town - dates back to the 12th century and is now one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. As the U.N. agency describes the town, "[b]uilt in coral stone and mangrove timber, the town is characterized by the simplicity of structural forms enriched by such features as inner courtyards, verandas, and elaborately carved wooden doors." The town has also become a center for learning about the Swahili culture and the Islamic religion. 

Nearly ten years ago, the culture and cuisine of Kenya took center stage at the Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Festival. While I did not attend the festival that year, I have been to the festival in the past. Each year, the Smithsonian Institution provides a spotlight for a few different cultures from around the world. One can learn about art, cuisine, history, music and much more at various stalls and stands across the National Mall. 

Back in 2014, one had an opportunity to learn about the Kenyan cuisine as part of a program called Kenya: Mambo Poa. The demonstration included this recipe, which is for Swahili Fish with Creamy Coconut Sauce. As Michaela Wright wrote for the Smithsonian Institution, the dish comes from Lamu island, where it is served for special occasions. It is also served of the iftar, the feast eaten by Muslims at night during the Ramadan holiday.

The cooks who prepared this dish - Amina Harith Swaleh and Fatrma Ali Busaidy - at the festival explained that they usually use 8 to 10 pounds of fish, such as red snapper or kingfish, for this dish. I did not have or intend to use 8 to 10 pounds of fish (primarily because neither my beautiful Angel nor myself would eat that much). So, I modified the proportions and cooking times to allow for about 2 pounds of fish (basically one large red snapper). 

If one had this dish on Lamu island, they would most likely be served a millet or what porridge during Ramadan, or with bread and rice at other times. If I make my way there, I will definitely try it as I take in the sights and sounds of that island. 


Recipe from Smithsonian Institution

Serves several


  • 8-10 pounds of firm, white fish (such as red snapper)
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • 6-7 garlic cloves, pureed
  • 1/4 cup of pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of salt
  • 2 16 ounce cans of coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons turmeric
  • Pepper to taste


1. Prepare the fish. Toss the lime juice, pureed garlic, pepper and salt into a large plastic bag. remove bones and scales from fish, but no need to remove head. Place fish (whole) into bag and marinate for two hours.

2. Broil the fish. Remove fish and place on baking sheet. Broil the fish at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until cooked through and lightly browned.

3. Prepare the sauce. Pour coconut milk, tamarind, pepper and turmeric into a medium saucepan and let simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste.

4. Finish the dish. Plate the fish. Remove sauce from heat and carefully use a spoon to coat both sides of the fish in coconut sauce. Pour any extra sauce on top. Serve warm with bread or rice.