How is sichuan pepper?

sichuan pepper

Sichuan pepper is also known as pink (sometimes also green) pepper, which are the small-hulled fruits of a number of plant species in the genus Zanthoxylum.

In Chinese it is called Huajiao , which means “flower pepper”, but it is also known as Shanjiao, which means “mountain pepper”. This is also the Japanese name, but it is pronounced like Sansho.

Sichuan Green Peppercorn has a unique flavor and aroma that is difficult to compare with other flavors. It’s not spicy like its name might suggest, but it does have a dry citrus flavor that has a weird numbing effect on the tongue. The Chinese have a word for this taste sensation: ma (麻).

How to use this ingredient?

Sichuan pepper is directly fried in oil without treating it, until it emits its smell. It is used for oven dishes or as an ingredient for stews. Another way to use it is by roasting the dried peppercorns in a hot pan, long enough until they start to release their scent.

They can be finely or coarsely processed to mix with other ingredients. It is an indispensable ingredient in Sichuan cuisine. Normally it is better to remove the branches, thorns and the irregularities that they may have before using it.

What is Sichuan pepper

Almost all of us already know the most common peppers and that to a greater or lesser extent we have been using or have come across: black pepper, white and green pepper, pink pepper, allspice… but, wait a minute, are all these peppers?

Well no, pink or red pepper, for example, is not really a pepper, but a berry from the “schinus molle” tree . The confusion comes, as we have already said, from the error of believing the Spaniards that they had really arrived, going around the earth, to the Indies, instead of to a new continent, South America.

Something similar occurs with allspice, so named for the same reason. In fact, allspice in the Anglo-Saxon world is called “allspice”, and refers to the fact that its complex flavor is reminiscent of a mixture of other spices: cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper…

Well, something similar happens with Sichuan pepper. If we limit the name “pepper” to the berries of the Pipper Nigrum, it is obviously not a pepper. And besides, as we will see later, it cannot really be said that it is spicy either.

Sichuan pepper (Szechuan pepper) is the fruit of the Zanthoxylum tree (xanthoxylum peperitum). Originally from that region of China, it has been used since ancient times both in gastronomy and in oriental medicine.

Does Sichuan pepper come open or broken?

When buying or using it, we must know that what we are really going to acquire or use is the shell or seed pod. This is due to the fact that the seed has a sandy texture and is rather unpleasant (as if we were biting the ground), while it is in the shell that all the essential oils and aromas are concentrated that make it unique and give it its characteristics.

What does it taste like?

As always, to get to know a spice, we recommend that you do something as simple as put a grain in your mouth and chew and savor it to familiarize yourself with its flavor.

The first surprise is that Sichuan pepper does not sting. At least not what is meant by itching or what we are used to. We will perceive that its flavor is very aromatic and intense, perhaps slightly lemony, and the initial sensation is similar to that produced by chewing cloves, although softer. In addition, a few seconds after chewing it we will notice a certain tingling and a slight numbness in the tongue (spicy numbness or mala -in Chinese-).

At the same time, one of the most interesting features is that it acts as a natural enhancer, enhancing the flavors of the dish we are eating.

FACT
Sichuan, Szechuan or more correctly said, Sìchuān, is a Chinese province almost as large as Spain in size, and with a population of almost 84 million inhabitants (year 2020)

 

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