Went to the local asian market to restock the pantry and saw a package of szechuan peppercorns that I was strongly inclined to buy. However, the english language warnings on the back made me hold off; to wit "Rinse five minutes before using. Cook at least 30 minutes before eating."
I mas thinking of using the peppercorns in a stir fry or in a rub, but the half hour of recommmeded cooking seems unlikely to fit in with the cooking techniques I was planning. Any ideas about the warning and proper usage?
Sichuan (or Szechuan or Szechwan) peppercorns (Chinese: huajiao 花椒) are the fruit of a bush in the Rutaceae family (kaffir lime is in the same family.) They were banned for import for a few years because they were believed to spread a citrus disease which endangered US fruit. Chinese exporters apparently changed their processing to help lift the ban.
I agree with jerry_i_h that the message on the package makes one wonder if what you have is really Sichuan peppercorns. They do not need to be soaked before using. They certainly can be pan roasted, like other spices, before use. They are the essential ingredient in Sichuan many many dishes of cuisine.
They do need to be used with caution, however. They are numbing rather than burning "peppers" and using too much can positively ruin a dish unless you are used to them. They are great ground to a powder and sprinkled on some kinds of salad in VERY SMALL quantity. In very large quantities they form the basis for a whole class of Sichuan soup/stew called paomu; your mouth goes completely numb while enjoying this dish.
I am very suspicious of your description, so I say either toss it if you bought, or not buy it.
Sichuan peppercorns (note the spelling I use) are actually a totally different plant from the standard western black or white peppercorns. You are suppose to toast them in a skillet or oven, and then I used to put into an ordinary peppermill. It has a taste that is very different, and is why your home wok food is somehow not quite the same as the food in your neighborhood chinese restaurant.
For your package, I do not know. Sichuan peppercorns are kind of essential if you are going to start doing chinese food. I like the idea of getting them from Penzeys from a previous post. This way, you can be assured as to what exactly you are getting. It is totally possible, unless you read chinese script, that your package is even different from ordinary sichuan peppercorns, e.g. it could be some kind of medicinal ingredient.
re: jerry i h
Why am I noting that you're using a pinyin not Postal or Wade-Giles spelling? I'm confused.
Regardless, I recommend that he Google 'Sichuan peppercorn' in Google images and looks at a few. They are pretty identifiable. If they look like what is shown, then buy these and ignore the label or go to another Asian grocer. There are some good photos in the wiki article too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sichuan_...
Reminds me of tandoori spice (beautiful but had a carcinogenic dye for that bright orange color) and mustard oil (potent but also toxic in some way) - both were among my favorite ingredients for cooking, and I'd probably still use both given a choice (tip: the really potent mustard oil is used for massage).
I've read that Szechuan peppercorns were banned for sale in the US for a while (or still are?), I have a large container of them and don't expect to run out anytime soon. Never thought of washing or soaking them.
maybe this is a new warning to comply with some new regulation but i have never done anyth special in coooking w these. they were banned from import for a few yrs; never understood why; but they're avail again, so my guess is that this warning is just like all the ones you see about pregnant women, undercoooked meat, etc etc on current restnt menus. i use them for 2 recipes in particular- both from barb tropp : one- tea smoked duch; 2- cucumber coins. no substitute will do!