All About Szechuan Pepper and How Is It Used?
What is Szechuan Pepper
Few years ago, Sichuan Pepper (sometimes called Szechuan or Chinese pepper) was illegal in the United States. Today, American cooks are thankful to have this spectacular seasoning back in their kitchens.
Sichuan Pepper is not related to more familiar peppercorns. Unlike those other common types of pepper, Sichuan Pepper is made from the dried reddish-brown berries of the Chinese prickly ash tree, which is native to the Sichuan providence – hence the name of the seasoning.
It is not hot or pungent like chili peppers, black pepper, or white pepper. It has a more citrus-like overtone.
Sichuan Pepper has also been compared to carbonated drinks in that it gives a slightly numbing sensation to the mouth.
How to Use Sichuan Pepper in Cooking
Typically, Sichuan Pepper seeds should be discarded before cooking. Many people find them bitter and most recipes call only for the husks. The most traditional way to use Sichuan Pepper is to toast it slightly in a deep frying pan without any oil or moisture added. Stir constantly. When the scent of the seasoning becomes apparent, remove the pan from the heat and pour its contents into a bowl.
Finally, crush with a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. The husks can also be whole to stews and soups. Typically, Sichuan Pepper is added as the last ingredient in a recipe.
Star anise and ginger are often combined with Sichuan Pepper, and the seasoning is traditionally used in such dishes as Kung Pao Chicken, Bang Bang Chicken, and Dan Dan Noodles. It is also sometimes used in less traditional dishes like Royal Sea Bream.
You’ll find this gourmet favorite at higher-end supermarkets and Asian grocery stores. It’s also usually available from online spice vendors. Sichuan Peppercorns are also included in Chinese five-spice powder (which also includes cloves, star anise, cinnamon, and ground fennel, although sometimes the Sichuan Peppercorns are replaced with white pepper).
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