Szechuan Pepper (syn. Szechwan) is a spice obtained from the seeds of a species of rue known as Chinese Prickly Ash that is native to China and Taiwan. It is a staple in Asian cuisine, especially in chicken, duck and pork dishes.
Unlike black pepper or chili pepper, Szechuan “peppercorns” lacks pungency or heat. In fact, it imparts a mild lemony flavor to foods, a characteristic that gives rise to another nickname — Indonesian lemon pepper.
While ground Szechuan pepper is an ingredient in Chinese Five-Spice powder, it is used whole to flavor culinary oils or added to baked goods to give a mild sweetness. The best flavor is achieved when the whole peppercorns are briefly toasted before they are added to foods.Szechuan lends a peppery, lemon-like flavor with a bit
of spicy heat that lingers. Goes well with meats, seafood, vegetables, and
other hot spices.Sichuan pepper, Szechwan pepper or Szechuan pepper,
a common spice used in Asian cuisine, is derived from at least two species
of the global genus Zanthoxylum, including Z. simulans and Z. bungeanum.
The botanical name comes from the Greekxanthon xylon, meaning "blond
wood". It refers to the brightly colored sapwood possessed by several of the
species. The genus Zanthoxylum belongs in the rue or citrus family, and,
despite its name, is not closely related to either black pepper or chili pepper.
The husk or hull (pericarp) around the seeds may be used whole, especially
in Szechuan cuisine, and the finely ground powder is one of the ingredients
for five-spice powder. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. The pericarp is the part that is most often used, but the leaves of various species are also used in some regions of China.
Another species of Zanthoxylum native to China is Z. schinifolium, called
"aromatic peppercorn" or "green flower pepper", used as spice in Hebei. Yet
another Zanthoxylum species provides the African spiceuzazi. Because all 250
or so species of the genus seem to possess at least some of the aromatic and
complex chemicals that enliven food, it is likely that most Zanthoxylum species
have been used at some time as a spice.
While the exact flavor and composition of different species from the Zanthoxylum genus varies, the same essential characteristics are present to some degree in most. So, while the terms "Sichuan pepper" and "sanshō" may refer specifically to Z. simulans and Z. piperitum, respectively, the two are commonly used interchangeably.
Related species are used in the cuisines of Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand and the Konkani and Toba Batak peoples. In Bhutan this pepper is known as 'thinge' and is used liberally in preparation of soups, gruels and phaag sha paa (pork slices). In Nepal, Timur is used in the popular foods momo, thukpa, chow mein, chicken chilli and other meat dishes. It is also widely used in homemade pickles. People take Timur as a medicine as well for stomach or digestion problems, in a preparation with cloves of garlic and mountain salt with warm water.
Sichuan pepper has a unique aroma and flavour that is not hot or pungent like black, white or chili peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth (caused by its 3% of hydroxy alpha sanshool) that sets the stage for hot spices. Sanshools appear to act on several different kinds of nerve endings at once, induce sensitivity to touch and cold in nerves that are ordinarily nonsensitive, and so perhaps cause a kind of general neurological confusion.
Recipes often suggest lightly toasting the tiny seedpods, then crushing them before adding them to food. Only the husks are used; the shiny black seeds are discarded or ignored as they have a very gritty sand-like texture. It is generally added at the last moment. Star anise and ginger are often used with it in spicy Sichuan cuisine. It has an alkaline pH and a numbing effect on the lips when eaten in larger doses.
Whole dried or powdered