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What to do with Szechuan peppercorns?

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  • Rick Feb 25, 2011 05:12 PM
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I bought a small jar of Szechuan peppercorns for my attempts at mapo tofu. I didn't care for the mapo tofu and now don't know what to do with the rest of the peppercorns.

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  1. Did you prep them?

    You have to put them in a hot pan and "toast" them until just short of smoking.

    Then put the peppercorns in the food processor and whirl for a minute.

    Put that into a sieve and shake out the husks. Discard the hard husks in the sieve and use the pungent roasted peppercorn powder that shook from the sieve.

    Does that make sense? :)

    4 Replies
    1. re: SilverlakeGirl

      Hmmm, the penzeys label just says to put them in a pepper mill, i wonder if penzey's already peeps them. After you prep them, what do you cook with them?

      1. re: Rick

        That's strange. The roasting really brings out the flavor. They become Very aromatic. And sieving them yields a nice smooth powder, the tough husks are discarded.

        I must admit I learned this technique from my Chinese cooking instructor, Hugh Carpenter ... about 25 years ago and it has never failed. I use it in any Szechuan recipe calling for Szechuan peppercorns.

        I love Penzey's but I tend to buy my Indian spices in Indian markets, Middle Eastern spices in Middle Eastern markets, Chinese in Chinese markets. So I'm not sure how, or if, Penzey's discards the hard, inedible husks.

        1. re: SilverlakeGirl

          Thanks, I did as you suggested, vast improvement! Put it on some lame Szechuan chicken fro my local suburban Chinese take out place, gave it the heat and flavor it needed.

        2. re: Rick

          The penzey peppers need to be toasted.

      2. Encrusted on a nice piece of beef or thick piece of fish and sear to medium well (my preference)
        Add to salad dressing
        Mix with good quality salt and use throughout your menu planning.

        3 Replies
        1. re: HillJ

          Like HillJ my favourite use is as a rub along with cacao nibs (ground). I also make a salt blend with whole allspice berries, Sechuan peppercorns, coarse sea salt and pepper (toasted and ground) in my mortar and pestle. But before I use it, I ALWAYS toast it first as I do with nearly all whole spices. You can also infuse oil with the peppercorns.

          Good and simple recipe for green beans:
          http://www.theperfectpantry.com/2010/...

          1. re: chefathome

            Sometimes the simply dishes are the most enjoyable; those green beans are right up my alley. I love those uses you're finding for the cacao nibs!

            1. re: HillJ

              Cacao nibs in savoury dishes have been a revelation to me! Their slight bitterness goes so well with proteins.

        2. Do you like the peppercorns?

          3 Replies
          1. re: paulj

            It's the first time I've ever had them. I thought they were OK. Doubt I'll be buying a second jar of them . . .

            1. re: Rick

              Here's a blog entry that tries to describe their taste:
              http://youvegottotastethis.myrecipes....
              with an emphasis on a numbing tingling quality. Others talk of a pine like taste.

              also
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sichuan_...

              1. re: paulj

                I definitely got the numbing tingling quality, I will say it was sort of a fun experience, just not something I crave.

          2. They are used in many of Szechuan Dishes. Just pick another one that you would like to try and use them there.

            1. Also
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/735866

              1. Do you drink?

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/754238

                1. Useful, but overrated in my opinion.

                  1. When you toast them and grind them, you can toss them on anything fried, like potato chips. I like to make ma la bacon, coated with pepper and then broiled in the oven. Or you can take fresh pork belly, pack it with salt and while peppercorns (just a few) before grilling. sky's the limit.

                    1. HI Rick, another idea is to make an infused oil with them. Roast them as above, roast some crushed dried chili peppers, heat to warm some canola oil (or any tasteless veg oil), place in a mason jar, cover and leave it to infuse for about a week. Filter. The spiciness of the chili and the numbing effect of the Sichuan is outta this world! I am a spice junkie, so I use 1-2 Tbsp Sichuan pepper and 5 crushed dried chilies for 1 1/2 cups of oil. It is a fairly versitile oil. Finish off a stir-fry, with and asian style soup, over grilled fish. I even eat it with a soft poached egg, scallion and cracked pepper on toast for breakfast.
                      If you ever buy BBQ duck in a chinese market, keep the bones, add 3 big slices of ginger, 2 garlic cloves, 2 scallions, and 1tsp roasted Sichuan pepper, some soy sauce, salt and a pinch of sugar. Cover with water and simmer on low about 1 hr. It makes a great broth for wonton or noodle soup

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: hypomyces

                        Really like your ideas!

                      2. I add them to the brine when brining chicken or pork.

                        1. Would you say they are spicy?

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Alica

                            They are not hot in the chile sense.

                            1. re: Alica

                              I'm not Chinese, but I love the cuisine. In the Sichuan region of China, the peppercorns, which are numbing, are mixed with chilies, which are hot to create a taste that the Sichuanese call 'mala'
                              麻辣-numb, peppery(pungent, hot)
                              The peppercorns numbs the tounge, which allows one to taste the burning chilie, all the while reducing the chilie's effect. Pure bliss.
                              I am a sichuan peppercorn addict

                              1. re: Alica

                                I agree. They are not spicy in a normal sense. There is a numbing effect on your tongue too.