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Black Pepper Around the World


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I love black pepper: it's hands down my favorite spice. But it seems that in a lot of cultures around the world it doesn't appear at all. Or maybe that's just the recipes I've had. In the US anyway it's basically ubiquitous, it seems like every recipe ends "season to taste with salt and pepper". What's it like elsewhere? Are there analogous spices in other cultures?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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In Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru, we say "Sal y Aji al gusto" - salt and hot chili peppers to taste. Powdered or prepared aji is the heat of choice in all Andean recipes - those calling for black pepper are substituting it for other things. Neither Spanish, Kichua, nor Shuar have a proper name for black pepper - all peppers that are not aji or uchu (spicy) are pimiento (also uchu). I've seen black pepper referred to as pimiento negro, pimiento de sal, pimiento de India, and a number of other things. We also call allspices pimiento de olor (stinky peppers).

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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There are a few enclaves in various remote spots around the world where pepper is not a predominate spice, but as it has been an important trade good since ancient times, there aren't many.

The "Vikings" certainly knew the value and raided the coastal shipping lance far to the south of their home countries and by the middle ages there was a brisk trade in pepper, as well as other "exotic" spices.

Peppercorns were used as money because they were lighter and easier to carry around than gold and silver.

There are a lot of old legal documents that contain references to peppercorns used this way.

(Peppercorn rent, for example.)

I too love pepper and have written about it before in another thread that had extensive discussion about pepper nigrum (varieties), long pepper, sichuan pepper, etc., and also on my blog.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I know it appears nearly everywhere around the world but I don't know of any culture where people use black pepper to season everything (often without even tasting the food first). My father peppers everything on his plate as soon as it hits the table in front of him. I've actually seen him pepper steak au poivre!

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It seems very popular as part of the cuisine in cold climates, but in the places where it started it seems to have been replaced with chilis. Or am I making that up?

If I recall correctly, black pepper originated in the old-world tropics (India, I think), while chilis are new-world tropics things.... I can't think of any of the countries where it grows natively that it's been fully replaced by chilis - they augment the heat, but they're not the only source. Meanwhile, in the original homes of the chili, it continues to reign supreme as the hot spice.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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It seems very popular as part of the cuisine in cold climates, but in the places where it started it seems to have been replaced with chilis. Or am I making that up?

If I recall correctly, black pepper originated in the old-world tropics (India, I think), while chilis are new-world tropics things.... I can't think of any of the countries where it grows natively that it's been fully replaced by chilis - they augment the heat, but they're not the only source. Meanwhile, in the original homes of the chili, it continues to reign supreme as the hot spice.

Yes, pepper is Old World and chili is New. I just always wonder where the heat would have come from in Indian, Thai, Laotian cooking, etc., before chili.

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I don't think it's common in Chinese cuisine. The only dish I can think of is my mother's recipe for spring rolls.

I think pepper is fairly common in Chinese cooking. Salt and pepper chicken / tofu / shrimp comes to mind, as well as black pepper lamb / beef as far as a couple of dishes which use pepper as their primary seasoning. Ground pepper is often used (sometimes in excess) to help compensate for less than fresh vegetables. It's used a fair amount in soup (e.g., hot and sour). Ground white pepper is often on the table as a condiment at Chinese restaurants.

A little history also here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_pepper#China

I have also seen Sichuan peppercorn (which is, of course, unrelated) mis-translated on ingredient lists as "black pepper".

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