The Sichuan Peppercorn Story

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Tamar Genger MA, RD
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sichuan salad

Ever have Chinese food with a lot of spice, but more than the heat from the peppers, you feel a sort of tingling sensation in your mouth?  It doesn't happen very often at kosher restaurants, but if you learn to cook your own you can make it spicy and tingly now that the ban on sichuan is over.

Sichuan peppercorns can be used or ground up into a spice blends.  It is commonly used whole in Szechuan cuisine and it is one of the classic ingredients in Chinese 5 spice powder, it provides and almost acidic flavor but most notable is the tingly sensation it leaves in your mouth that makes it ideal paired with hot spices.

Sichuan peppercorns were banned for import by US government in 1968 because they could carry a canker which destroys citrus trees.  That doesn't mean it wasn't being sold or used around the country, supposedly it was pretty easy to find if you knew where to look, but in 2005 the peppercorn came back on the scene.  A technique was found to kill the canker by heating the peppercorns to 140 degrees. You can find them pretty easily these days in gourmet markets or Asian markets or even on Amazon.  Whole spices do not need hashgacha and I recommend you buy it whole.

You can use the whole spice in chicken recipes or to liven up any of your Chines cooking or you can grind up for spice blends.  It is really best paired with chili peppers or other hot spicy flavors.  My introduction to Sichuan peppercorns for you starts with this Kale Salad with Sichuan Peppercorn Dressing.  Make the dressing and use it for cucumber salad or carrot and celery salad.  Feel the tingly sensation and then go and explore.

In searching for more ideas I can't wait to try this recipe for Sichuan Peppercorn Peanuts from Michael Natkin.

Let me know if you try out this new/old spice in your cooking.