Sichuan Pepper Sampler (Szechuan Peppercorns)
Can't decide which Sichuan pepper to try? Want to have three different and distinct flavor profiles to choose from for making Sichuan dishes? Then this collection of three varieties of top-grade Sichuan peppercorns may be the answer. Included in the Sichuan Pepper Sampler are 1 ounce each of red Da Hong Pao, Green Sichuan Pepper and the rare red Tribute Pepper. (About 1/2 cup of each type.)
A member of the citrus family, the Zanthoxylum genus includes numerous edible species of both red and green Sichuan pepper. The most famous red hua jiao, as Sichuan pepper is called in Sichuan, is grown in Hanyuan County, Sichuan, in a village called Qingxi. It is also known as gong jiao, or Tribute Pepper, because it was the favorite of the emperors, demanded in tribute (tax) through the centuries. There is still much more demand than supply of gong jiao in China, so we are privileged to be able to source it. Tribute Pepper boasts fresh citrus and floral notes.
Also widely loved in Sichuan nowadays is Da Hong Pao, or big red robe, which is large, bright-red and virtually seed-free, with a warm and woodsy flavor.
Green Sichuan pepper, which is bright and lemony, has become wildly popular in Sichuan and Chongqing over the past couple decades. It is a good match for fish, chicken and vegetable dishes and is almost always found in hot pot.
Though the three varieties of hua jiao have distinctly different tastes, they are generally interchangeable. There are no hard and fast rules about which Sichuan pepper goes in which dish—that is entirely up to you!
Premium Sichuan pepper should have a strong citrusy fragrance and taste as well as intense numbing power. Its signature tingly quality is a product of the hydroxy-alpha sanshool molecule. This unique botanical compound binds to tactile touch and vibration receptors (instead of taste receptors, like sweet or sour). Through these tactile receptors in your mouth and lips, sanshool targets the chemical touch pathway and activates paresthesia-inducing somatosensory neurons. In other words, it makes your brain think your mouth is physically vibrating, thus going numb.
Our hua jiao is particularly potent, as it has not undergone the once-required heat-treatment process that for so long robbed Sichuan pepper of some of its punch in the U.S.
These peppercorns are hand-picked and dried by the farmers before our buyer chooses the best and has them machine-sorted once and hand-sorted twice, as only the top grades are. This insures mostly opened seed pods and few seeds, which appear in abundance in lower-quality Sichuan pepper. We at The Mala Market hand-package them weekly to insure freshness.
Usage: Sichuan peppercorns should not be eaten whole unless you want a real jolt, but they are fairly easy to eat around in dishes that use them whole. More frequently they are toasted and ground to a coarse or fine powder. Alternatively, you can heat them in hot oil to infuse the flavor and remove the peppercorns altogether.
To grind: Sort Sichuan peppercorns and discard any stray black seeds, twigs or thorns. Toast in a dry skillet or oven until pods start to smell very fragrant, but do not brown them. Let peppercorns cool, then grind in a spice or coffee grinder or in a mortar & pestle to your desired coarseness. If you desire a fine powder, sift out any yellow husks that don't break down. Sichuan pepper powder will retain its potent flavor and numbing punch for only a few weeks, so grind in small batches. (And never buy pre-ground Sichuan pepper powder if you want to experience the numbing quality of the spice.)
To learn more about the history of Sichuan pepper in the U.S. and current sourcing in China, read this article we reported for Roads & Kingdoms when we visited Qingxi.Source: Grown in Qingxi, Sichuan Province; Jinyang County, Sichuan Province; and Wudu, Gansu Province
Size: 3 resealable packages, 28 grams (1 ounce) each
Ingredients: Single-origin Sichuan peppercorns. No additives or preservatives. Non-irradiated and non heat-treated.