Sichuan peppercorns are known throughout China as ‘flower peppers’ because they look like flower buds opening. They are reddish brown in colour with a strong pungent odour, which distinguishes them from the hotter black peppercorns. Sichuan peppercorns are not from peppers at all, but are the dried berries of a shrub which is a member of the citrus family. I find their smell reminds me of lavender, while their taste is sharp and mildly spicy. They can be ground in a conventional peppermill and are very often roasted before grinding to bring out their full flavour. Sold wrapped in cellophane or plastic bags in Chinese grocers, Sichuan peppercorns are inexpensive. They will keep indefinitely if stored in a well sealed container.
© 1995 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.