Classic dishes in Sichuan cuisine will be different without Szechuan peppercorn. When this aromatic spice is combined with chile peppers, which are the other key ingredient in Sichuan food, chefs think that the numbing effect makes the chile peppers less spicy, so diners can enjoy the peppers' intense, fruity flavour. Sichuan peppercorns are not more spicy than black peppercorns on their own, but the way they make your mouth tingle makes it taste better.
What is Sichuan Pepper?
Sichuan peppercorn is a spice made from the husks of the seeds of two species of the prickly ash shrub, which is in the citrus family. The pinkish-red husks that cover the seeds are used to make the Sichuan peppercorn spice. The black seed inside is thrown away because it is too rough and would taste like sand if eaten. You can use whole Sichuan peppercorns or grind them into a powder. The spice is one of the five ingredients in five-spice powder. The other four are star anise, fennel, clove, and cinnamon. It is used in many savoury Sichuan dishes.
Origins of Sichuan Pepper:
People are often surprised to find out that Szechuan peppercorn isn't even a pepper. It doesn't come from Piper nigrum, like black pepper, which is from India. It also isn't related to chilli peppers, which are from the genus Capsicum and are from the Americas.
Sichuan peppercorns are made from a type of prickly ash shrub that is native to China and Taiwan. Relatives of this plant are grown in the Himalayas, Thailand, and Indonesia. The name comes from the northern Chinese province of Sichuan, which used to be written in English as "Szechuan." The peppercorn that grows in northern China is called Z. bungeanum. The peppercorn that grows in eastern China and Taiwan is called Z. simulans.
How does Sichuan Pepper taste like?
The smell of Sichuan peppercorns is like that of lavender. The first taste on the tongue is bitter, then there is a numbing heat, and then there is a citrus taste. Its main claim to fame is that it makes the area around the mouth feel very numb.
Culinary use of Sichuan Pepper:
Peppercorns are often roasted and ground before being used in a recipe. First, look at the peppercorns and throw away any sticks, leaves, or tiny black seeds that you find. Then, put the peppercorns in a frying pan and heat them over medium-low heat until they start to smell good. Take them off the heat and grind or crush them when they have cooled down. You can also store the roasted peppercorns in a jar with a lid so you can grind them when you need them for a recipe.
Health benefits of Sichuan Pepper:
- Stimulates blood circulation: If you are feeling tired, lightheaded, and weak, you may have anaemia from not getting enough iron. Since Sichuan pepper in its original form is high in iron, eating it may help your body make more haemoglobin and make your circulatory system work better.
- Reduces pain: This kitchen spice is very important when it comes to dealing with pain. Sichuan pepper works to relieve pain because it contains chemicals that can bind to the pain receptors. So, it helps get rid of the feelings of pain and discomfort. This may not be a cure for pain, but it can help relieve it and can be applied directly to the area that hurts.
- Boosts immunity: This pepper has a lot of zinc, which is an important mineral for boosting the body's immunity. Zinc deficiency has a few signs, but it can be easy to miss them. This is why it is important to keep an eye on the zinc content. If you eat Szechuan peppercorns, it might work.
- Increase appetites: It can be hard to get your appetite back when you are getting better from being sick. But you need to eat healthy food to help your body heal faster. This pepper has a number of nutrients that make you hungry and speed up your metabolism. So, you can get the most out of the food and get better faster.
- Strengthen bones: This pepper has essential minerals like phosphorus, manganese, copper, and iron that are needed to strengthen bones and help prevent age-related conditions like osteoporosis. Minerals are important to get enough of, and this pepper is a good source of minerals.
- Get rid of inflammation: Spicy Szechuan Pepper is known to have anti-inflammatory properties because it contains antioxidants like phytosterols and terpenes. Oxidative stress, which is caused by free radicals in the body, can lead to inflammation in the body. The compound in Szechuan pepper fights the free radicals and stops inflammation at its source.
- Helps in digestion: It helps protect the stomach and can also help with digestion, speed up the metabolism, and reduce inflammation in the stomach. It can help prevent stomach problems like cramps, gas, and constipation.
- Helps lower blood pressure: Managing blood pressure with Szechuan pepper may seem like an odd combination, but it works. This pepper has a lot of potassium in it, which is good for the health of your heart. It also helps relax the blood vessels, which keeps blood pressure from getting too high, and it lowers the effect that cholesterol might have. So, heart attacks and strokes can be stopped.