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leilani86

Cooking with Szechuan Pepper

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Hi there! I've had this ingredient in my cupboard for months and never figured out how to use it. Does anybody have tips on how to get the most out of this pepper?

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One of the tricks is to make sure you are using only the husks, and not the little black nubs that live inside them. The nubs tend not to grind down and are unpleasant to bite onto.

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Start cooking Sichuanese cuisine!

 

My favorite dishes heavily featuring them:

Mapo doufu

Shuizhu anything (fish is my favorite)

Gong Bao ji ding (aka Kung Pao chicken, the real recipe)

Dry-fried green beans

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I often add Szechuan pepper to stews, especially beef or game stews, along with a little cinnamon and bay leaf.

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Hi there! I've had this ingredient in my cupboard for months

 

In that case, I suggest throwing it away and starting again. They lose flavour very quickly and become musty. Buy in small quantities and use quickly.

 

I'd echo what others have said and check out Sichuan food. Start with Fuchsia Dunlop's 'Land of Plenty' (published in the UK as 'Sichuan Cookery'). It includes authentic Sichuan recipes for all the dishes Hassouni lists and more.

 

Like mjx, I regularly throw a few into 'non-Chinese' stews and braises.

 

And don't miss out on this wonderful Sichuan Peppercorn Ice Cream. I'm working on incorporating some home-made crystallised ginger in there.

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In addition to the above I've used them in cocktail bitters. I've also seen them used in ice cream.

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In that case, I suggest throwing it away and starting again. They lose flavour very quickly and become musty. Buy in small quantities and use quickly.

Interesting, that has not been my experience at all: maybe it's the drier climate here? I tend to buy them in large quantities and find that they are still flavorful a year or more later.

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Thank you all so much for your advice and input, I shall try cooking more Sichuanese cuisine. Here's an outrageous thought - would it go well on pizza? Lol

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Interesting, that has not been my experience at all: maybe it's the drier climate here? I tend to buy them in large quantities and find that they are still flavorful a year or more later.

 

Hmmm. Maybe.

 

Fuchsia Dunlop writes in the UK edition edition of "Land of Plenty", "Sichuan Cookery" that the "quality of Sichuan peppercorn [in the UK] is so poor by comparison that it's hardly worth using" and "later goes further by stating that the "Sichuan peppercorn sold in Chinese supermarkets [in the UK] is of very poor quality; do not even consider using it." She goes on to recommend a couple of suppliers of really fresh peppercorns.

I'm wondering what she says in the US edition and whether the peppercorns you are buying were fresh in the first place. Although I had eaten and used them before in the UK, the first time I tasted one in Sichuan I thought I was having a taste heart attack or some flashback to the 60s - astonishingly powerful buzz of tasty numbness. Who needs cocaine?

 

I just know that I buy them very fresh here, but within a few weeks they lose a lot of that kick.

 

 

Here's an outrageous thought - would it go well on pizza? Lol

 

Given the atrocities thrown onto pizzas all over the world, I don't see why not. In fact, it's been done before


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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I recently got some very potent peppercorns in a market in Flushing (NYC).

 

I use them for Sichuan dishes, but I suspect they have hidden versatility. Add a small quantity of toasted ground Sichuan peppercorns to your spice rub for Marcella Hazan roast chicken, for example (I also add paprika and ground star anise to the basic salt and pepper combination).

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Fuchsia Dunlop writes in the UK edition edition of "Land of Plenty", "Sichuan Cookery" that the "quality of Sichuan peppercorn [in the UK] is so poor by comparison that it's hardly worth using" and "later goes further by stating that the "Sichuan peppercorn sold in Chinese supermarkets [in the UK] is of very poor quality; do not even consider using it." She goes on to recommend a couple of suppliers of really fresh peppercorns.

The US edition says the same thing. The last sentence of that section, however, relating to the tingling sensation biting on one induces "(You will only experience this effect if you use good-quality Sichuan pepper.)" would seem to me to indicate that I am using "good quality pepper" since it certainly induces this effect in just the manner she describes. Perhaps the state of quality and availability has changed in the intervening decade?

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I use these in an IKEA inexpensive 'glass' grinder on fine setting.  was not aware of the black bits.  will take a peak next time I grind some

 

and I get a pack from the chinese mega mart about every 6 months.

 

only God knows now long they have been sitting there !

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The US edition says the same thing. The last sentence of that section, however, relating to the tingling sensation biting on one induces "(You will only experience this effect if you use good-quality Sichuan pepper.)" would seem to me to indicate that I am using "good quality pepper" since it certainly induces this effect in just the manner she describes. Perhaps the state of quality and availability has changed in the intervening decade?

From about 1968 to 2005 the US banned the importation of these peppercorns. I'm guessing that there were some pretty stale peppercorns kicking around for a while in those years.

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I don't know. I've bought numerous batches of them, and nothing compares 1) to the pretty old jar I have in my family's place in London, which despite a few years still has a CRAZY zing and 2) the stuff that nearly every good Sichuanese restaurant in the DC area is using - I don't know where they're sourcing from, but every individual peppercorn is fully charged, whereas at home it takes me a few to get the similar effect. Perhaps it's just a freshness issue (but then why are the ones in London still so potent?)


Edited by Hassouni (log)

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Well, I only know that in supermarkets here they are sold in small bags - 50g. When fresh they are not a bit tingly. They are like a punch in the mouth. That effect soon goes.

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I don't know. I've bought numerous batches of them, and nothing compares 1) to the pretty old jar I have in my family's place in London, which despite a few years still has a CRAZY zing and 2) the stuff that nearly every good Sichuanese restaurant in the DC area is using - I don't know where they're sourcing from, but every individual peppercorn is fully charged, whereas at home it takes me a few to get the similar effect. Perhaps it's just a freshness issue (but then why are the ones in London still so potent?)

Hi Hassouni, Can you recommend me a brand/ shop ?

 

I'm after a medical grade numbing effect, but It's hard to find :hmmm:

 

A lot of brand are just ok, with a small tingling on the tongue and bunch of seeds in the bags.

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Err, one of the shops in the London Chinatown, can't remember more detail I'm afraid

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Had Sichuan hotpot at a colleague of the wife's yesterday. I look forward to hotpot nights so much I blew off one of *my* colleagues' birthday bash for it.

 

Got some mala sauce mix on my last trip to Singapore (it's hard to find in BKK) and will experiment with hotpot at home. First thing you'll notice if the Sichuan pepper's in anything like usable condition is that your lips and mouth 'tingle' when you eat a dish spiced with it. it's a very different sensation to other spicy foods. Some describe it as numbness but I prefer 'tingly.'

 

Meanwhile, one thing that's worth mentioning: Sichuan pepper isn't closely related to black pepper, chili pepper,  or any of the stuff we usually refer to as pepper, and often says 'prickly ash' on packaging. Generally the part you want to use is the seed husk (pericarp), not 'corns' as such (but everyone calls 'em that). Not sure if other parts are of much use.

 

Delightful, thrilling stuff. So much so that after the first hotpot night I ordered Ms. Dunlop's book. I guess my intro to Sichuan food must've happened while this stuff was banned in the states because I had never experienced it until I had Sichuan hot pot in Beijing. Sichuan pepper's now creeping up the obsession charts at an alarmingly high rate.

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If your Sichuan peppercorns are only 'tingly' they aren't fresh. As I've said before, fresh Sichuan peppers as used in Sichuan aren't 'tingly'; they are like a smack in the mouth.

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I use them in peanut sauce and in sesame sauce, both of which I use frequently on cold noodle dishes.  I sometimes use them in lieu of cayenne pepper, and have used them mixed with black, green, and white peppercorns to give an added dimensionality to a number of dishes.

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