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You may be familiar with togarashi, a traditional Japanese seasoning found on tabletops across the East Asian island. If you’re a ramen fan, you’ve probably sprinkled it over a medley of hot noodles and broth. But its uses reach far beyond the bowl. Dating back to the seventeenth century, it’s a spicy mixture made with seven ingredients, including chili peppers, orange peels, and sesame seeds. The seasoning adds brightness to anything from fish to meats to stir-fry. Think of it as something similar to red pepper chili flakes with a toasty-sweet kick and a hint of umami.
In quarantine, fine-dining industry couple Pete Amadhanirundr, a sous chef, and Ally Smith, a cocktail bar manager, found themselves with unexpected free time to pursue creative ideas. Inspired to make a food item that represents the new south with global influence, they launched the PET PET brand with their first product, Tingly Togarashi.
Pet pet translates to “spicy spicy” in Thai, a callback to Amadhanirundr’s roots. “We didn’t want to restrict ourselves to only making Thai or Southern products,” says Smith. “We want to accommodate the bold flavors of Asian and Southern cuisines.”
Amadhanirundr explains how store-bought togarashi has overwhelming flavors of sesame seeds and chilis. “That’s all you can taste,” he says. PET PET’s version, which includes Szechuan peppercorn, has a full-bodied profile, thanks to the quality of ingredients and the intention Amadhanirundr and Smith put into every batch. “We toast all our spices, and we dehydrate all the orange peels so that the flavors really come through in the mix,” says Amadhanirundr.
Smith and Amadhanirundr source most ingredients locally, including the orange peels. Those come from their friend Amy Lawrence, the owner of Journey Juice. It’s a win-win for the brands: Waste is reduced, and Amadhanirundr and Smith don’t have to invest in an excess of citrus. “Amy gives the orange peels we don’t take to goat farms around Georgia,” says Smith. Tingly Togarashi’s star ingredient, Szechuan peppercorn, is not traditionally found in togarashi. Amadhanirundr says the Szechuan peppercorn enhances the other ingredients with “a nice tingling and fruity flavor.”
The couple experimented with proportions in their kitchen until they got the balance of spices just right. For Amadhanirundr, the aromas of cooking bring him back to his childhood days in Thailand. “My mom would roast chili peppers in her kitchen,” he says. “The smell always reminds me that food can be captivating, nostalgic, and most of all, inspiring.”
When it comes to pairings, the founders encourage experimentation. “We’ve been putting it on some weird stuff lately,” says Smith. Their latest creation? A bag of Lay's drizzled in hot sauce and topped with a sprinkle of Tingly Togarashi. They also tell us it’s delicious on brie cheese. Fans have sent photos of togarashi-topped mac and cheese and pizza, too.
While PET PET is just a few months old, they’re looking forward to what’s coming in the future. Though it’s too early to share details, new products are in the works—so stay tuned! “We’re excited to be a part of the new south, and we hope to inspire others along the way, not only in the kitchen but in everyday life,” says Amadhanirundr.
Written by Daniela Johnson