Originating from the Central Chinese Province that gave it its name, Sichuan peppercorn is known for its fragrant, yet piquante taste that leaves more than a little warmth on the palette.
Compared with other spices like black peppercorn, the Sichuan variety offers the same hotness, but with a lingering tingle on the tongue that works to enhance other flavors of the dishes it’s included in.
What is Sichuan Peppercorn?
Sichuan peppercorn used in cooking is created from the husks of seeds that come from different species of the ash shrub - a.k.a. Zanthoxylum - and believe it or not, it belongs to the citrus family.
This particular shrub is native to China, Taiwan, Thailand and parts of the Himalayas and Indonesia, but over time, it became most strongly linked to the Sichuan region of China.
One of the Elements Used in Popular ‘Five Spice’s
With a pinkish coloring, these husks are separated from the inner part of the plant that contains black seeds. However, these seeds aren’t used for cooking purposes, as they tend to have too much of an unpleasant gritty texture.
Often found in popular five-spice powder, these ground-up husks are used in many types of savory dishes eaten primarily across the Far East.
The History of the Spice
What comes as a shock to many is that Sichuan peppercorns are not actually peppers and have no association with either black pepper or chili peppers. That’s because the husks are used, not the seeds.
While the exact point in time when these spicy peppercorns came to be widely used across China is unknown, what we do know is that they’ve been used for centuries.
Due to their unique appeal, Sichuan peppercorn is as widely used in cooking as it has ever been, with people all around the world now able to enjoy its unique flavor profile.
So, What Do They Taste Like?
Anecdotally speaking, people have often described the Chinese peppercorn as having a profile that’s a lot like lavender, with an initial bitter taste.
This is then followed by a heat that numbs the tongue and then refreshing citrus tones. As much as the heat is part of the flavor experience, so are the citrus flavors that work to reduce its severity.
What Sort of Dishes Include This Unique Peppercorn?
Obviously, any dish that includes this unique spice will have something of a kick to it. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a cornucopia of different meals that it can be used in.
Here’s just a selection of the popular dishes that use the peppercorn:
Sichuan Pork Stew
Sichuan Mala Chicken
Dan Dan Noodles
Each of these dishes has its own unique qualities, of course, but the undertones that come by including spicy peppercorns are noticeable in every bite.
Sichuan Peppercorn - A Distinctive Spice With a Kick
Sure, these amazing little peppercorns provide heat to the cuisine they’re used with, but they offer so much more than that. With fruity tones and a certain numbing effect on the tongue, it might not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly has many fans who simply love it!
Also able to complement an array of different savory flavors, this is a spice you should have in your cupboard for those days when you want your food to bite back!
The good news is that getting hold of some for yourself is really easy, as high quality Sichuan Peppercorn is available at the Little Istanbul Gifts Shop. While there, you’ll also see a myriad of other spices from around the world.
Thanks for reading, We hope you enjoy your cooking Sichuan-style!