She is regularly invited to speak at chef's seminars and conventions. Her
most recent one was before 150 chef's from all over. She has now
graciously agreed to furnish us with some of her in sites into smells and
flavors of spices from all over the world.
In this column, Ann gets right to the flavor of the topic, so . . . . . take notes! With no further adieu, we turn the mike to Ann. You're on Ann . . . . .
Sichuan Pepper - A "Berry" Taste Spice
It's known by many names - Chinese pepper, Fagara, Flower pepper,
Sancho powder, Szechwan pepper, anise pepper. Sichuan pepper, by
whatever name, is a spice worth knowing.
The pepper has a pungent, woody aroma with a pleasant "peppery"
flavor. (You already know the flavor because it is a major ingredient
of Chinese Five-spice Powder.) It is mildly bitter with hints of
For best results, buy the berries whole and grind them in a small
spice grinder. To achieve even more flavor, dry roast the berries in
a heavy iron frying pan.
This spice has an affinity for pork and duck and is particularly good
in cutting the flavor of fatty foods. Sichuan pepper is the pepper
of choice for both Chinese and Japanese cooks.
Sichuan pepper is actually not a pepper but the dried berry from the
prickly ash tree. It is indigenous to China where it grows
abundantly in the wild. The red berries, which are picked in the
fall and left to dry in the sun, are about one sixth of an inch long
with a rough prickly exterior. The dried berry eventually splits
open and looks like a flower.
Barbara Tropp, author of the China Moon cookbook, recounts her
introduction to Sichuan pepper while staying in China with a wealthy
family. The family used only the seeds inside the berry for
flavoring food. One bite releases a burst of tingly flavor.
The painstaking process of removing the seeds is far too expensive
for our purposes. Furthermore, the husk of the berry seems to dilute
the bitterness as well as adds a flavor of its own.
Sichuan pepper is the important ingredient in China's seasoned salt.
To create the salt, Chinese cooks roast two tablespoons of Sichuan
pepper with three tablespoons of sea salt and one teaspoon of white
When the Sichuan pepper begins to smoke, the spices are removed from
the heat. This combination is ground to a course powder.
Dry frying the ingredients releases the aromatic oils, picks up a
hint of smoke, and intensifies the flavor. This seasoning is used on
everything as we would use salt and pepper.
Sichuan pepper is a necessary pepper for many classic Chinese dishes
such as Sichuan noodles with beef of crispy duck. In Sichuan
province this spice is usually paired with chili peppers.
One of the few spices used in Japanese cooking is Sichuan pepper. In
Japan it is known as Sancho. The pepper is always used ground and is
usually added to food after cooking to counter the taste of fatty
foods. Sancho powder is one of the ingredients in the Japanese seven-
spice mixture of shichimi.
Shichimi is a combination of sancho, seaweed, chili powder, orange
peel powder, poppy seed, and white and black sesame seeds. This is
sprinkled over noodles or into soups. Shiitake mushrooms with
garlic, ginger, and Sichuan pepper is also a favorite in Japan. This
spice is great in Thai crab cakes and also on green beans.
In Korea, Sichuan pepper is used in cucumber salads. Sliced
cucumbers are marinated in vinegar, sugar, salt, sesame oil, sesame
seeds, and Sichuan pepper.
Remember: This flavor marries well with the flavor of chilies. The
ultimate use might be in a great rub for pork or chicken. This could
be your next secret ingredient..
Check out Ann's Current Column
Copyright (c) 2001, by:
Ann D. Wilder, President
VANN Spices, Ltd.
'World of Spices' is © by VANN Spices, Ltd.
who is solely responsible for its content