Organic Raw Sichaun Peppercorns

16 Facts About Sichuan Pepper

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Sichuan pepper, also known as Chinese coriander or fagara, is an iconic spice used in Chinese cuisines around the world. Known for its intense, citrusy flavor and tongue-numbing effect, Sichuan pepper adds an unmistakable kick to dishes.

Here are 16 fascinating facts about this popular spice:

Introduction

Sichuan pepper has been used in Chinese cooking for thousands of years and remains an essential ingredient in Sichuan cuisine. The reddish-brown husks around the peppercorns provide an intensely fragrant, citrusy flavor unlike any other spice. When ground, Sichuan pepper delivers a tingling, mouth-numbing sensation caused by hydroxy alpha sanshool compounds interacting with sensory neurons. Let’s explore more about this unique and versatile spice!

Facts About Sichuan Pepper

Sichuan pepper peppercorns
  • Sichuan pepper is not actually a true pepper. It comes from a small deciduous tree in the rue family called Zanthoxylum. True peppers belong to the Piper family.
  • It has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine. Sichuan pepper was used to treat toothaches, nausea, and diarrhea.
  • The tongue-numbing effect has a name – má or mátingle. This numbness allows the chili heat in Sichuan dishes to linger on the palate.
  • Despite the name, the pepper does not grow in Sichuan province. It grows in small mountainous regions of China like Hubei, Guizhou, and Yunnan.
  • Sichuan pepper was banned in the US from 1968-2005. The ban aimed to prevent the spread of citrus canker disease, although the spice itself was not a host.
  • To bring out the flavor, the peppercorns are toasted before using. The peppery, lemony notes intensify once dry roasted.
  • It is one of the original five-spice powder ingredients. Along with cloves, cinnamon, fennel seed and star anise.
  • Sichuan pepper oil is intensely fragrant and popular in Sichuan cuisine. The aromatic oil beautifully perfumes stir-fries.
  • Despite the tingling sensation, Sichuan pepper is not spicy. The sensation is caused by hydroxy alpha sanshool, not capsaicin which gives chili peppers their heat.
  • A little goes a long way due to its potent flavor. Use sparingly until you are accustomed to its intense citrus and numbing effects.
  • Toasting the peppercorns reduces the tongue-numbing effect. So it can be prepared two ways to calibrate má intensity.
  • The pepper has a short shelf life once ground. Buy whole Sichuan peppercorns and grind just before using to maximize potency.
  • It pairs well with beef, duck, tofu and green beans. The citrus, floral notes beautifully complement these foods.
  • Sichuan pepper trees have sharp, pointed thorns. In China, the thorns are used as natural fences and barriers around fields.
  • Sichuan peppercorn oil contains antioxidants. Research shows its ability to fight free radicals is comparable to vitamin E.
  • The spice is known by many other names – fagara, Chinese coriander, shān jiāo, Nepalese pepper and sansho.

FAQ

What is Sichuan pepper?

Sichuan pepper, also known as huājiāo in Chinese and timur in Nepali, is a spice commonly used in Sichuan cuisine in China, and in Nepal and northeast India. Despite its name, Sichuan pepper is not closely related to black pepper or chili peppers. It produces a tingling, numbing effect when eaten due to the presence of hydroxy-alpha sanshool.

What are the different varieties of Sichuan pepper?

Commonly used Sichuan peppers in China include hónghuājiāo (red Sichuan peppercorns) and qīnghuājiāo (green Sichuan peppercorns). Red Sichuan pepper is typically stronger-tasting, while green Sichuan pepper is milder but fragrant and has a stronger numbing effect.

What are the culinary uses of Sichuan pepper?

Sichuan pepper is an important spice in Chinese, Nepali, Kashmiri, northeast Indian, Tibetan, and Bhutanese cookery of the Himalayas. It has a citrus-like flavor and induces a tingling numbness in the mouth. It is commonly used in dishes such as mapo doufu, Chongqing hot pot, and momo dumplings.

Are there medicinal uses of Sichuan pepper?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Zanthoxylum bungeanum has been used as a herbal remedy for ailments such as abdominal pains, toothache, and eczema. Research has revealed that Sichuan pepper can have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant effects in model animals and cell cultures.

Why was there a US import ban on Sichuan peppercorns?

From 1968 to 2005, the United States Food and Drug Administration banned the importation of Sichuan peppercorns because they were found to be capable of carrying citrus canker, which could potentially harm citrus crops in the U.S. The ban was fully lifted starting in 2007.

Conclusion

With its one-of-a-kind flavor, tongue-tingling sensation and storied history, Sichuan pepper stands out in the culinary world. This versatile spice transforms dishes from ordinary to extraordinary. Next time you fire up a sizzling Sichuan wok, don’t forget this special ingredient that electrifies tastebuds.


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