[Flavor Friday] Sichuan Pepper
Updated: Mar 1
What’s Sichuan Pepper (花椒)?
Sichuan Pepper (Zanthoxylum) is a spice that’s commonly used in Sichuan/Chinese and sometimes in Japanese and Indian Cuisine; It is also known as the Sichuan Peppercorn. Interestingly enough, even with the name pepper, it is not closely related to either chili pepper or black pepper. It is made from seed husks of Chinese ash trees, in the family of Rutaceae which includes citrus. It is one of the ingredients in the five-spice powder, a commonly used spice in Chinese cuisine, which is usually made up of fennel, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and Sichuan Pepper.
Sichuan Pepper was used to add heat to dishes in Northern Chinese cuisine before hot chilies were brought to China from the New World. It is more common in Northern Chinese cuisine and especially in the Sichuan province due to its humid and cold weather.
In Chinese Medicine, when the weather is cold and humid, our body performance goes down and create Shi Qi (humidity) in our body. There are different ways of explaining Shi Qi inside of one’s body, but the fundamentals are cold & humid which causes our immune system to go down. Therefore, people would eat spicy food because it warms up a person’s body and allows them to sweat out the Shi Qi (humidity) inside their body and therefore get better.
What does it taste like?
It has a unique flavor that is not as hot as chili peppers, but it creates a mouth-numbing and tongue-tingling feeling. When putting it in your mouth, you start by sensing the numbing heat and followed by citrus. If you bite into it sometimes you can also taste the bitterness. It is commonly used in combination with chili pepper, garlic, and ginger to create a special combo of aroma.
Commonly Used Cases
Usually, you can get the Sichuan Pepper at Asian markets where it is packaged dry and includes the fruit and seeds only. They are usually in the form of roasted seeds or grounded into powder.
For cooking, people usually use a bit of oil in the stir-fry pan over medium heat to roast and get the aroma of spice out before adding it to the dish.
Spicy Hot Pot, Beef Noodles, various braised dishes, five-spice chicken, spicy tingly beef.