Roasted Szechwan Pepper-Salt

花椒鹽

This is the salt and pepper of China, and how much more interesting than our own! The salt acquires a depth of flavor during roasting that mates beautifully with the numbing tingle of the fragrant flower pepper. Visually, it is like the prettiest of sand beaches, a study of pale browns, golds, and off-whites. Its Chinese use is primarily as a dipping salt to cut the rich oiliness of deep-fried foods. In a Western kitchen, use it as a subtle all-purpose seasoning—for omelettes, roasts, vegetables, salads, or your own deep-fried specialties.

  • Chinese favor a high ratio of salt in the mixture. I cut it back to let the pepper come through. For extra dimension and punch, you may add some fruity black peppercorns (Tellicherry recommended) to the mix.

Ingredients

Method

Combine the salt and peppercorns in a dry, heavy skillet. Stir over moderate heat until the salt turns off-white and the peppercorns are fragrant, about 5 minutes. The peppercorns will smoke. Do not let them scorch.

Scrape the hot mixture into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife, then process for 1 minute until fine. Alternatively, pound to a fine consistency with a mortar and pestle.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the peppercorn husks, then store in an airtight bottle, away from light, heat, and moisture.

Use sparingly. A mere pinch or sprinkle is the right approach, as the mixture is very pungent.

Sprinkle foods with pepper-salt before serving them, and/or serve the mixture in tiny dip dishes alongside each place setting or in a dip dish nestled on the serving platter.

The pepper-salt remains good so long as it is keenly aromatic, several months if you store it correctly.

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