Monday, November 26, 2012

*bisou* rose spice of life: szechuan peppercorn

*bisou* rose presents you: Szechuan (Sichuan) Peppercorn! 

A wonderful gourmet Christmas gift or stocking-stuffer for that Masterchef wannabe friend or just regular people you love who find joy in cooking and experimenting with exhilarating new flavours and spices ! 

For a limited time only, while stocks last :)

Szechuan peppers 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 of a tree of the rue family. Several Zanthoxylum species grow throughout the temperate belt of China, Japan, the Himalayas and North America. They all have similarities, being aromatic and used in herbal remedies. Only the pipertium variety of the East is useful for cooking. In Japan the wood of the prickly ash is used to make mortars and pestles which impart some flavour to the substances being ground. The Japanese also use the wood for tobacco pipes

Szechuan  peppercorns 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.

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.

Originating from the Szechuan province of China, Szechuan pepper is associated with dishes from that region which feature hotter and spicier cooking than the rest of China. Duck and chicken dishes in particular work well with the spice. Star anise and ginger are often used with it and figures prominently in Szechuan cuisine.

The berries are carminative and anti-spasmodic. The North American prickly ash is known as the ‘Toothache Tree’ because the powdered bark was used as a toothache remedy and to heal wounds. The bark and berries are stimulative and used as a blood purifier and digestive.

Other names: Anise Pepper, Chinese Pepper, Fagara, Japan Pepper, Sichuan Pepper, Suterberry, Szechuan pepper, Toothache Tree, Yellow Wood

Scientific Name is Zanthoxylum piperitum Fam: Rutaceae