I would like to talk to you about a spice that you probably don’t know. This spice is called Sichuan peppercorn. Have you heard or seen it before? What are Sichuan peppercorns?
In March 2023 I made a short trip through Italy with my girlfriend, which lasted 2 weeks. We visited many cities and areas. Bari and Polignano a Mare in Puglia, Sorrento in Napoli, Florence, Pisa, Bergamo and Milan.
In Italy there are many people from Asia. Especially in Florence I met many people from Asia. Many of them live in Florence. Accordingly, there are also many Asian restaurants. Since I am a vegetarian, I am not so often in Asian restaurants but because my girlfriend wanted to eat in an Asian restaurant, we visited one. Although many Asian restaurants were almost empty, this restaurant was full and there was even a line in front of the store.
My friend ordered a meal. In this dish she discovered a very interesting taste. Since I love to cook and am always looking for new recipes and flavors, I had to taste the spice. It was Sichuan Peppercorns.
It looked like a black pepper corn but was bigger and had a short stem. I was fascinated by the taste of this spice. Unfortunately, I didn’t ask in the restaurant and later after our resie, I searched and found Sichuan peppercorns in Asian restaurants.
What are Sichuan peppercorns?
Sichuan peppercorns, also known as Szechuan peppercorns, are a spice commonly used in Chinese cuisine. Despite the name, they are not actually peppers but rather the dried husks of the berries of the prickly ash tree.
Sichuan peppercorns have a unique flavor that is both citrusy and numbing, and they are often used in combination with other spices such as chili peppers to create the signature flavor profile of Sichuan cuisine. They are also believed to have medicinal properties and have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat digestive problems and other ailments.
It’s worth noting that for a period of time, Sichuan peppercorns were banned in the United States due to concerns about a citrus canker disease that could potentially affect crops. However, the ban was lifted in 2005 and they are now widely available in the US and other countries.
How do Sichuan peppercorns taste?
Sichuan peppercorns have a very unique flavor that is difficult to describe. At first you have the feeling that you have a very intense tasting black pepper on your tongue but the taste changes very quickly, becomes sheep and slightly bitter.
They have a complex taste that is both numbing and citrusy, with a slightly bitter and woody undertone. When you first taste them, you may notice a tingly, numbing sensation on your tongue and lips, which is caused by the presence of a compound called hydroxy-alpha-sanshool. This numbing effect can be quite intense, and some people find it unpleasant, while others enjoy it. I enjoyed it.
In addition to their unique taste, Sichuan peppercorns are also prized for their aroma. When you crush or grind them, you’ll notice a fragrant, lemony scent that can be quite strong.
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