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.
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.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.