Despite the name, Sichuan Peppercorns are not peppercorns at all. These curious little nuggets are the outer pod from the fruit of the prickly ash bush, a plant indigenous to China. While the fruit is sandy and unpalatable, the pods have a spicy, woody fragrance, and deliver an unusual, sharp flavor. It begins with a bitter bite that gives way to a warm, numbing sensation, which then fades out into earthy and lemony undertones. Sichuan peppercorns have a volatile oil content of 4%-7% and the active ingredient, sanshool, essentially excites the taste receptors on the tongue so much that we perceive their excited state as numbness. In Chinese this is called má; numbing má allows diners to eat spicier food and benefit from là, the sweat-inducing properties of hot chile peppers. The cooling effect of sweating through hot food in Sichuan’s humid environment is called málà, and is a hallmark of Sichuan cuisine.
Sichuan peppercorns were banned from the United States for almost 40 years, from 1968 to 2005. The ban was instated because of agricultural concerns over citrus canker bacterial disease. Citrus canker disease, while not harmful to humans, is devastating to citrus crops. It causes lesions on plants and leaves, causing them to drop leaves and fruit prematurely. The ban on Sichuan peppercorns was lifted in 2005 after reaching an agreement that all Sichuan peppercorns imported to the United States must first be heated to over 160 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which the citrus canker bacteria dies.
Tips From Our Kitchen
Sichuan Peppercorns can assert themselves in strong dishes and add a surprising twist to black bean chili, roasted lamb, and a peppery beef stir fry. Use them with ginger to make a spicy broth for dumpling soup, or pair with tofu to make the traditional Sichuan dish mapo. Steep in oil with hot chiles for a spicy oil to drizzle on top of your food. The delicate citrus side of Sichuan Peppercorns can be highlighted, too, mixed into vanilla ice cream. It also adds a surprising lift to peach cobbler or tarte tatin.
There are no true substitutes for Sichuan Peppercorns because of its unique numbing sensation, though a combination of black pepper and coriander can emulate the flavor. We also have Ground Sichuan Peppercorns available for sale.
Our Sichuan Peppercorns are grown in China.
This product is certified kosher.
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Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*