Szechwan peppercorns: Ideas for cooking with, and does anyone think they're addictive?
I bought a large jar of Szechwan peppercorns -- I'm not sure why, since I don't cook complicated Chinese dishes very often. I made some very intriguing ma po tofu, but what else would be tasty and not require arcane Chinese techniques? Also, does anyone else feel like when they eat a dish with these little guys, like they can't stop eating it? It's not because the dish is so yummy, it's like your mouth requires you to keep getting that chilling tingle.
I have tried heavily spiced szechuan dishes several times, and I just don't get the pleasure of the effect everyone is describing. To me, it is very similar to eating food that is wayyyyyyyyyy too salty. I feel like it is cancelling out many other flavors, and I find I lose my appetite quickly after eating a few bites - it kinda makes me feel a little ill. I am wondering if this is really the way it's supposed to be? The tingling is interesting, but there is something else going on that I just don't appreciate (though I keep trying).
Different sets of taste sensors respond in different ways, like some folks loving cilantro and others tasting only soap. If you don't like it, you don't have to, and if it makes you feel sick stop punishing yourself! To me, a dish with this stuff relieves a lot of the heat buildup I get from eating a table-full of the spicy Sichuan dishes I love - when the pain becomes intrusive I just chew on another prickly-ash sparerib (not something I have to be talked into anyway!) and the fire diminishes.
Peppercorn is used like a seasoning - I noticed that a lot of the beef/tripe soups in our sichuan places has whole peppercorns thrown in for flavor.
Also, the classic seasame noodles has peppercorn grinded over it with a nice bit of chunking vinegar - when I tried that it was awesome. It's in Dunlop's book. (and so is the dan dan noodles)
I also just got a nice appetizer from a Chengdu-style joint, it has peanuts, smoked bean curd, pickled radish, with some scallion whites and seasame seeds. It was quite delicious and has a very numbing unmistakenable sichuan peppercorn bite. If I have to guess I guess they stir fry the peanut and bean curd first over very high heat until the skin puckered, and add the rest. Not sure of the other seasonings but it seems like it was just salt.
BTW Dunlop book has many more ideas, and they aren't complicated at all. I am getting addicated to sichuan food despite warnings from my parents, who have decided sichuan peppercorn is bad for you....oh well.
This is one of my favorites.
SZECHUAN SPICY TANGERINE CHICKEN
1 1/2 lb skinned and boned chicken, cut into cubes
1 t cornstarch
2/3 cup diced onion
4 scallions cut into 1-inch lengths
5 diced dried red pepper, minced
2 t Szechwan peppercorns, roasted and ground
2 t fresh ginger minced
2 T tangerine or orange juice
2 T soy sauce
1 T hoisin sauce
3/4 t sugar
3/4 t Szechwan chili paste with garlic
2 cups oil if deep frying
2 T tangerine or orange peel, cut into strips
1 t white vinegar
1 t sesame oil
1. Combine chicken and cornstarch
2. Combine onion and scallions in small bowl
3. Combine chili peppers, peppercorns and ginger in another bowl
4. Combine juice, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sugar, and chili paste and mix well.
5. Set aside all small bowls.
6. Heat oil in wok to 225 degrees F. Add chicken and cook until it loses its pink color. Remove chicken and set aside. Pour out all but 1 T oil. (If desired, chicken can be stir fried in 4 T oil.)
7. Heat oil until very hot. Add chili pepper mixture, and stir fry 15 seconds. Add peel. Add combined onion and stir fry 20 second. Mix in chicken. Add juice, mixture, and & stir fry 30 seconds. Add vinegar and stir fry 15 second. Mix in sesame oil and serve.
I thought you were supposed to pan roast the peppercorns too. There is nothing wrong with not pan roasting them prior to use but pan roasting brings out the flavor more. It's similar to roasting walnuts before usage. You can opt to not roast them but roasting makes it much more enjoyable
I bought a small jar at Penzy's last month. The product doesn't look like regular peppercorns: it's sort of a mix of kernels and shells. Also, not really hot. Is that the way it is supposed to be?
That said, last week I cleaned out an old peppermill, put some of the Szechuan pepper in it, and put it on the table. I have been using it on all my foods, and I love the flavor! Especially on my breakfast egg-spinach-cheese omelet and cucumbers and steamed veggies, and potatoes...everything. Definitely distinctive and different from the tellichery pepper.
I use Sichuan peppercorns and sea salt as a marinade/brining agent. I put peppercorns and sea salt in a frying pan on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the salt starts to take on the color and flavor of the peppercorns. Then I rub the peppercorns and salt all over the turkey or chicken or goose and let sit for a night.
The next day I wash off the stuff and roast the meat.
Add them to barely steamed green beans with some sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. Also good with fried mushrooms with a little soy sauce.
I got addicted to these in Sichuan when I was there earlier this year. I first had them in some street food and my mouth was so instantly numb that I thought I was having an allergic reaction. I'm hooked now and would love some other ideas as well. Especially for a chicken & peanut dish......
I wholeheartedly agree that they are very addictive.
My favorite use of them is in a cumin lamb dish. Any cumin lamb dish! You can stir fry a few vegetable with lamb slices and add the peppercorns (better if you've ground them to a powder), or do a whole stew with lamb leg/shank, beef/chicken/lamb stock, dried chilis, jalepenos, leeks, any green vegetable (bok choy, spinach, etc), soy sauce, chili paste, sesame oil, and peppercornw. OMG so good...