Updated: Feb 5, 2019
Sichuan pepper or Szechuan pepper is a commonly used spice in Chinese cuisine. Despite its name, is not closely related to either black pepper or the chilli pepper.
The husk around the seeds may be used whole, especially in Sichuan cuisine, and the finely ground powder is one of the ingredients for five-spice powder. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. The pericarp is most often used, but the leaves of various species are also used in some regions of China. Sichuan pepper is known in Chinese as huā jiāo.
Sichuan pepper's unique aroma and flavour is not hot or pungent like black, white, or chilli peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones Szechuan peppercorns contains sanshool and like capsaicin in chilli peppers; it interacts with nerve cell receptors in your lips and mouth. It excites the touch sensors and the confusing sensation feels like numbness.
Recipes often suggest lightly toasting the tiny seed pods, then crushing them before adding them to food. They are also infused in warm oil for cooking and seasoning purpose, it is best used in stir-fry noodle dishes without hot spices. Commonly used in the Sichuan cuisine is a combination of Sichuan pepper and chilli pepper, and it is a key ingredient in má là hot pot, the Sichuan version of the traditional Chinese dish. It is also a common flavouring in Sichuan baked goods such as sweetened cakes and biscuits.