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Tuesday, January 3, 2017
The Szechuan Peppercorn: What Is it and How Do I Cook with It?
The Szechuan (also spelled Sichuan) peppercorn is a spice
popular in many Asian countries, particularly China. Rather than simply
being hot, this peppercorn has a spicy, more exotic flavor than black
peppercorns. It is not related to the pepper family. Reddish brown, it is
actually a dried berry husk from the Chinese prickly ash bush. Because it
can cause your mouth to tingle, use it sparingly.
To prepare these peppercorns, briefly toast the amount you
need in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat until they begin to give off
their fragrance. Remove them from the heat, let cool and then crush them
using a mortar and pestle. Or put them between two sheets of wax paper
and gently bang them with a heavy can or rolling pin.
Dishes in which they are featured include Stir-Fried
Eggplant with Pork, Spicy Tofu and Szechuan Noodles with Spicy Beef Sauce, to
name but a few. I like to use crushed Szechuan peppercorns to season
pieces of fresh tuna before briefly sautéing the tuna in hot oil.
Szechuan peppercorns are available in small packets at
Asian markets, gourmet grocers or online. Ground Szechuan pepper is
one of the ingredients in Chinese Five Spice.
NOTE: Small twigs may be mixed in with the peppercorns and
should be discarded before crushing occurs.