Tuesday, 30 June 2009


Szechuan or Sichuan pepper is native to the Szechwan province of China. Though they bear some resemblance to black peppercorns, they are not actually of the pepper family, but the dried berry i.e. the outer pod of the tiny fruit of a number of species in the genus Zanthoxylum (most commonly Z. piperitum, Z. simulans, and Z. schinifolium). It is widely grown and consumed in Asia as a spice. It is widely used in Chinese Szechuan cuisine, from which it takes its name, as well as Tibetan, Bhutanese, Nepalese and Japanese cuisines

Szechuan pepper has a unique aroma and flavour and is not hot or pungent like black or white pepper or chillies. It has lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth when consumed. Recipes often suggest lightly toasting and then crushing the tiny seedpods 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 end of the cooking process.

Szechwan pepper are rust coloured with hair-thin stems and open ends. The dried berries resemble tiny beechnuts measuring 4 - 5 mm in diameter. The rough skin splits open to reveal a brittle black seed, about 3 mm in diameter; however the spice mainly consists of the empty husks. It is available whole or ground. In Japan the leaves are used as spice — the ground dried leaves are known as sansho and the whole leaves, kinome, are fresh, vacuum-packed or pickled.

The berries should be gently roasted to release aromatics before crushing with a mortar and pestle or electric coffee grinder. If a fine powder is desired, sieve to remove the husks and stalks. Store in airtight containers, out of sunlight.

Other Names

Anise Pepper, Chinese Pepper, Fagara, Japan Pepper, Sichuan Pepper, Suterberry, Szechuan pepper, Toothache Tree, Yellow Wood
French: poivre anise
German: Szechuan-Pfeffer
Italian: pepe d’anise
Spanish: pepe di anis
Chinese: chuan-chiao, chun-chiu, shun-tsin, fa-chin, hua-chiao, hua jiao, jiao, ta-liao
Japanese: kinome (fresh leaves), sancho (powdered dried leaves)

Source: Wikipedia and Epicentre.com

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