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Szechuan Pepper

Despite its name, this spice is not part of the pepper family but rather the rue (citrus) family. It is commonly used in Szechuan cuisine.

The dried seed pods, freed from the seeds, are usually used as a spice. The round capsules are reddish brown to black in color and heavily wrinkled. Harvest time for the ripe fruits of the Szechuan pepper is in August, the fruits are then dried at 40 to 60 °C. Some of the seed pods are ground and used as a spice powder. In most cases, however, the whole seed pods are sold and only ground before the dishes are prepared.

Characteristic is the tingling taste that causes a feeling of numbness on the lips and tongue. The substances responsible for this sensation are various amides, which make up up to three percent of the ingredients in the seed capsules.

Sichuan pepper is often mistaken for being spicy. This is probably because it is commonly used in dishes that also contain hot chilies. In Chinese, the flavor created by the combination of Szechuan pepper and hot paprika is referred to as "ma-la" type, meaning "numbing and spicy". This flavor gives Szechuan cuisine its independent character. Representative dishes include hot pot, Shui-zhu style spicy beef and Ma-po tofu with ground beef.

Szechuan pepper is also part of the five spice powder spice blend.

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