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Mar 29, 2007 07:00 PM

Szechuan peppercorns

Hi all!

I bought some of these from a spice store the other day. I tasted one and I almost died it was so spicy, so I am a little afraid of them now. What do you do with them? If you have some basic recipe ideas, I would appreciate it!

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  1. I've never cooked with them, but love them when I eat Szechuan out. Most dishes involve savory broth, a good sauce, etc. They are not for the feint of heart.

    1. Sounds like a bad case of "pa la"or "fear of heat," as Sichuan people say. A great place to start toward an understanding of the spice palette is Fuchsia Dunlop's "Land of Plenty"--doubtless the best Sichuan cookbook to date.Worth looking for since it allows anyone with access to ingredients to make legit DIY Sichuan dishes.

      1. Yikes! You bit into one! Wow. I toast them in a dry cast iron pan and then grind them w/ a mortar and pestle, sift the ground pepper through a mesh sieve and then mix it with salt. More salt than pepper. It is an amazing dip for fried chicken - or baked chicken, for that matter. I just did this the other day because I was feeling nostalgic for my time teaching in China in the late 80s, when we would go to the local "western" hotel for a dinner treat at their Chinese restaurant. Their "western" restaurant was horrible. Anyway, it was warm in there and we always ordered the fried chicken leg (the whole quarter w/ thigh, actually) which came with a little pile of this salt and pepper mixture. Best chicken in the world. This wasn't in Szechuan - I imagine they use the peppers there for all sorts of things, but I don't think they're meant to be eaten whole - kind of like black peppercorns - used whole for flavor, but ground for eating. So, anyway - the fried chicken legs....I know - it doesn't sound like what you think of when you think of Chinese food, but there's a reason Kentucky Fried Chicken was the first American chain restaurant to open its doors in China. It beat out Mickey D's! Oh, I actually add a little ground black pepper to my concoction. It's good with fried shrimp, as well. My recipe for dandan noodles uses ground peppercorns. I haven't made it yet, though. Next on my list.

        1. I really don't find them to be "hot "at all..They numb your mouth sure but that is their allure! Szechuan recipes usually call for added chiles or bean paste and that's where the fire comes from.

          2 Replies
            1. re: suse

              I agree, not hot, just intense. And they are powerful in a recipe. They can overpower everything else easily. I basically ruined a dish by pushing the inclusion of them similar to how I push chili, red pepper, black pepper in many dishes from all walks of life.

          1. Hey Keramel-
            Like the other posters mentioned- the flavor is intense with a different kind of heat than black pepper or chilis.

            I have a hand-crank grinder that I use after toasting the "peppercorns"- I usually wind up grinding an extra teaspoon of spices, jsut for kicks... I'd suggest tasting and grinding, then using these peppercorns inplace of black peppercorns on simple things like chicken and mild white fishes until you get an understanding of it's unique flavor characteristics. I have been known to toss a few in with the herbs and spices I grind for Italian tomato sauce, anything I stir-fry, and even scrambled eggs and popcorn.