Sichuan pepper, a fake pepper not to be confused and not to be used as a substitute for the real one, thinking that it acts the same way. We also find it in circulation with other names, always "deceptive", such as Chinese pepper, Japanese or sansho pepper, Nepalese pepper, Indonesian lemon pepper. But it is a special pepper and now we understand why.
Sichuan pepper: cultivation
The first crops of Sichuan pepper started in the province of Sichuanobviously located in the south / western part of China and also known today for its particularly rich and interesting gastronomic tradition even for those who do not like the classic Chinese cuisine found in Italy. This plant produces red berries which, once ripened and dried, divide into half alone. Thus, they reveal that within them they have kept a small black seed.
The scientific name of the berry is Zanthoxylum, it is widely used in oriental cuisine, in China but also in other countries such as Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and Japan.
Sichian pepper: properties
The Sichuan pepper it has a pungent and at the same time refreshing aroma, it may seem at times similar to that of citrus fruits but with notes of camphor. As for the flavor, very similar but there is to add which, being quite strong, can also slightly numb the tongue leaving a bitter aftertaste a bit like it also happens with cloves.
Sichuan pepper: recipes
Being very bitter, and sandy if chewed, the seed is not often used in cooking, more than anything else in recipes we find the outer shell in the ingredients. For this before being ready for use in the kitchen, the berries must be dehydrated, dried and also passed through a sieve so that the black seed leaves the capsule empty and it is available for our recipes.
The pepper mill it is not suitable for the Sichuan pepper, better to treat this spice with a mortar. We can use it for dishes based on fish, duck, chicken and with fried aubergines. In some cases, then, it is found in the form of oil and associated with other flavors such as ginger, brown sugar and rice vinegar in the recipe for fried noodles, for example.
In addition to Chinese dishes, even in that of Tibetan and Bhutanese cuisine Sichuan pepper it is used, together with garlic or onion, to give flavor to pork dishes. Even in Japan this fake pepper comes to flavor some dishes, but of chicken, or soups.
Sichuan pepper: benefits
It is not a question of merit, no one wants to compete with the black pepper with that of Sichuan, but the fact that they are both "pepper" and that there is a strong similarity between them, can lead those who are not experts to confuse. It is not just a question of flavor, but also of use and consequent benefits. The Sichuan pepper in fact it also has unique pharmacological properties.
Belonging to Rutaceae family, as well as lemons, it can boast an anti-itching and pain-relieving action on the skin. It is also used against painful intestinal spasms and against toothache, in fact in its parts it is called the "toothache tree". Also included in traditional oriental dishes, Sichuan pepper has interesting properties because it dilutes the irritating effect that some foods can have.
Sichuan pepper: where to buy
Common in China and easy to find in other countries that use it in the kitchen, the Sichuan pepper in Italy it is sometimes available in herbal medicine shops but it is better to look for it in shops than they sell oriental foods, including spices.
Sichuan pepper: price
A 45 gram pack online at Amazon costs 6.50 euros, so this spice does not have an unbearable cost, taking into account that we do not use it in large quantities as its flavor is quite strong. The price can change if we buy it in other formats and for non-culinary uses, for example as an oily extract to soothe itching and toothache, or as an ingredient in cosmetic products
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