Many people are surprised to learn that Szechuan peppercorn isn't really a pepper at all, as it consists of the pinkish-red dried outer husks of the prickly ash shrub. Szechuan peppercorn has a fragrant aroma that has been likened to lavender. However, its main claim to fame is the powerful numbing sensation it causes around the mouth. When married with chile peppers (the other key ingredient in Szechuan cuisine), chefs believe this numbing effect reduces the chile pepper’s heat, leaving diners free to appreciate the capsicum’s intense, fruity flavor.
Szechuan peppercorn is featured in numerous dishes, including Bang Bang Ji (Bang Bang Chicken), Dan Dan Noodles and Kung Pao Chicken. Recipes frequently call for the peppercorns to be ground and roasted. Ground, roasted Szechuan peppercorn is used to make an infused oil and is also paired with salt to make a flavorful seasoning. Szechuan peppercorn is one of the five ingredients that makes up five spice powder (the others are star anise, fennel, clove, and cinnamon).
Store Szechuan peppercorn in a sealed jar away from light.
Also Known As: Szechuan (Sichuan) pepper, flower pepper, flower peppercorn, hot pepper, prickly ash, hua jiao
Alternate Spellings: Szechwan peppercorn, Sichuan peppercorn