Szechuan Peppercorns (Sichuan pepper) - its unique flavor
What does it taste like?
Szechuan peppercorns (also spelled Sichuan peppercorns) are an unusual Chinese spice that gives spicy Szechuan and Hunan cuisine a "bite" that's very different from what we traditionally understand as spicy.
It is a flavor that's difficult to describe--kind of a lemony, numbness-inducing peppery sharpness--but it leaves a faint smell in your upper nose for hours after eating it. It's one of those unusual flavors that has to be experienced to be understood, and it's quite nice. It's not hot or spicy in the usual other peppers can be, but it can complement them pretty nicely.
Banned in the US until 2005 (because of fears it could carry the citrus canker bacteria; they can be imported, provided that they've been pasteurized), Szechuan pepper is most commonly found in Chinese Five Spice, a blend of 5 spices (cinnamon, star anise, ginger, cloves, and Szechuan pepper).
It is also popular in Bhutanese, Japanese and Tibetan cuisines.
Learn more about Szechuan peppercorns
- How the West Was Won Over by Sichuan Chili Oil | Red Cook
Terrific backgrounder on sichuan peppercorns, and even how to make the brilliantly-colored sichuan chili oil.
- The Perfect Pantry: Szechuan peppercorns
Includes a recipe for salt & pepper prawns.
- BBC - Szechuan Peppercorns - Burn and Numb your Senses
Background on this spice, its uses in Chinese cuisine, and a recipe using it (fried hot diced chicken).