Sichuan peppercorn (花椒, Hua Jiao) is also called Sichuan pepper and Szechuan pepper. The peppercorn has an appearance similar to that of black pepper, but with the husk split open and a brownish red color.
As its name would suggest, Sichuan peppercorn is commonly used in Sichuan cuisine. The dried peppercorn can be used whole or ground, in stir fry, salad and braised dishes. The ground peppercorn powder is also an ingredient found in Chinese five spice powder.
Sichuan peppercorn has a pungent aroma, slightly lemony overtones, and numbing properties. If you accidentally bite into one of these small peppercorns, you’ll immediately feel a tongue-tingling, buzzing, party-in-your-mouth sensation.
How to use
There are two main ways to cook with peppercorn.
- Cook Sichuan peppercorns in a bit of oil until turned brown, drain the oil, then grind the Sichuan peppercorns. It eliminates the raw numbing zing and gives it a more rounded aroma. The peppers will be less potent so you can use more to add fragrance. The roasted and ground peppercorns works well in stir fried dishes and cold dishes.
- Whole Sichuan peppercorns can be directly added to a braised dish, especially one involving pork, duck or lamb. Besides adding umami to the the dish, the peppercorn has another function – that it removes the game flavors that some meat may have.
Although an authentic Chinese meal will contain whole peppercorns in various dishes when served, you could remove them so your guest won’t accidentally bite into them.
Sichuan peppercorn a necessary ingredients to cook authentic Sichuan food, like Kung Pao Chicken, Mapo tofu, Mala Chicken and Dan Dan noodles. It’s also used in preparing chili oil. It can also be used in various dishes such as Grilled Lamb Skewers, Chinese beef pie, and crispy spicy salmon.