3 of a Kind: Togarashi

Feeling the heat? Check out a chile-laced spice blend that is elevating everything from cheesecake to cocktails.

3 of a Kind checks out three places across the country to try something cool, new and delicious.

Togarashi, a chile-laced spice blend, is a staple in Japanese cuisine, but chefs of all backgrounds are using seasoning in creative ways that go beyond seared tuna and hand rolls. Lauded for its nuanced heat and nuttiness, togarashi, which typically includes a mix of red pepper, orange peel, multicolored sesame seeds, nori (seaweed), ginger and sansho (Japanese pepper), is elevating everything from cheesecake to cocktails.

Togarashi Cheesecake at MilkWood, Louisville, Ky.

Acclaimed chef Ed Lee has always been a fan of crossover desserts, and MilkWood’s Southern-leaning, globally inspired menu is the perfect playground for sweet-savory experimentation. Lee says of his signature Togarashi Cheesecake, “I wanted a spice that would cut through the richness but not interfere too much with the pleasure of it. Togarashi also has sesame and bits of nori in it, so that extra nuttiness and saltiness was the perfect complement to the spice.” The not-too-sweet ending features a gingersnap-cookie crust layered with goat cheese and lemon cream cheese, blanketed with togarashi and finished with miso caramel. “Together, the togarashi and miso lend a back note of spice and saltiness that give the dessert depth and complexity,” says Lee.

Peat’s Dragon (with Togarashi Yuzu) at Kimoto Rooftop, Brooklyn

For his signature Peat’s Dragon cocktail, head bartender Dave Danger pays homage to the modern classic Penicillin cocktail, a mix of Scotch, lemon, honey and ginger. His version starts with Japanese whiskey and peaty Scotch to lend the cocktail its signature smokiness. To balance those bold flavors, Danger adds housemade galangal (Asian ginger) honey, along with togarashi-infused yuzu citrus juice. “Togarashi adds spice and a touch of heat to the drink. This complements the smokiness of the peat in the Scotch and the bite of the galangal,” he explains. The ingredients are shaken with and strained over ice, garnished with a lemon twist and candied ginger, and served with a rooftop garden view.

Togarashi Bagel at Knead Bagels, Philadelphia

At Knead Bagels, Cheri and Adam Willner offer a twist on the traditional bagel shop. You’ll find still find the classics like plain bagels and everything bagels, but the duo also adds options like cardamom and togarashi. For the latter, the bagels are boiled, dusted with togarashi (bolstered by additional black sesame seeds and a little salt), baked and then paired with an ample schmear of scallion-lime cream cheese. “The acidity in the lime helps cool off the heat a little bit and gives the bagel a nice tingly finish, instead of being blown away with the shichimi togarashi,” Adam Willner explains. It’s a well-balanced bite that also makes an excellent breakfast sandwich.

Photos courtesy of MilkWood, Kimoto Rooftop and Brian Michael Kinney
Keep Reading