Although the name implies and they almost look the same,
szechuan peppercorns does not belong to the pepper family, but to the rue or citrus family. It
originated from a plant from Szechwan, China, It has a unique aroma and flavor that is not hot or spicy
like black peppers, white peppers or chili peppers. It has a slight lemony flavor and brings feeling of
numbness in the mouth when eaten. It is basically a famous ingredient of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and
Himalayan cuisines. It is one of the ingredients of the famous Chinese five spice.
Szechuan peppers are available all year especially in
Chinese stores. It is advisable to buy the whole peppers or husks as it is necessary for some soups and
stews. If powdered szechuan pepper is needed, you can just simply grind them using a coffee grinder, hand
mill or a simple pestle and mortar.
Before adding szechuan peppers to food, the tiny seedpods
should be slightly toasted and crushed afterwards. The black seeds, since there will be no use for
them, is discarded and only the husks will be the essential one. Szechuan peppers are added to the dish once
it is almost cooked. Szechuan peppercorns should be stored in a tightly sealed jar to prolong its
freshness. It can be stored up to several weeks in a tight sealed jar.
Szechuan peppercorns are best combined with chili
peppers. The numbness that it brings lessen the heat of the chili peppers thus letting the diners taste and
appreciate other flavors incorporated in the dish.
Like black peppers, szechuan peppercorns also has health
benefits. It aids in the digestion by producing enough gastrointestinal juices. It is also a great
source of vitamins, minerals and is also a good antioxidant. The ground bark of the plant is good for relieving
toothache. Although szechuan peppercorns are not as hot as the black pepper, too much intake would result to
stomach upset, irritation and ulcers.