Sichuan is an area in China that has an abundance of chillis, spices and more importantly, I may add the famous Sichuan pepper (Huā Jiāo, 花椒), this pepper is quite remarkable it has a flavour unlike any that I have tasted before, there is a slightly citrusy flavour that is sharply followed by strong peppery taste which then develops into an unusual numbing sensation.
This pepper is really the secret ingredient of Sichuan cuisine, a largely unknown pepper in Europe, having said that people are now starting to discover this pepper as well as use it in their cooking. So I would not be surprised if you are one of them, and the same can be said for those who have never heard of this pepper before.
Sichuan pepper is quite simply one of the most important spices used in the Chinese kitchen. Apart from being used as whole for stir-fries, braised dishes & hot pot, ground Sichuan pepper plays an important role in seasoning Chinese delicacies.
4 STEPS TO GRIND SICHUAN PEPPER
It only takes a few minutes to make your own Sichuan pepper powder in four easy steps.
STEP 1: DISCARD THE BLACK SEEDS
Before you start grinding, make sure you look through the peppercorns and discard any black seeds that you find. (With Méline's highest quality Sichuan peppercorns there won't be many the cheaper quality ones will be a mine field)
Unlike black/white pepper, only the open husks of Sichuan pepper is used.
The black seeds (found loose in the package or still inside the husks) are hard and bitter so definitely need to be removed.
STEP 2: DRY ROAST
Place Sichuan peppercorns in a cold frying pan. Turn the heat up to medium-low, and start to roast them, shake the pan back and forward occasionally. Look out for the signs of that they are ready:
They start to release the incredible aroma
They look a little oily on the surface
Remove them from the hot pan immediately. Overcooking will result in a bitter taste.
STEP 3: LEAVE TO COOL THEN CRUSH
Leave the roasted peppercorns to cool before you grind them.
I use a pestle and mortar to do the job, but you can use a machine, be careful not to over grind them.
After the roasting and cooling process, the peppercorns become brittle thus very easy to grind.
STEP 4: SIFT TO REMOVE GRITTY BITS
Finally, you need to sift the crushed pepper through a fine-mesh sieve.
This is to remove the larger gritty, sandy bits
MAKE A SMALL BATCH AT A TIME
Sichuan pepper’s aroma and numbing effect decrease over time. Particularly after grinding, it loses its best taste pretty quickly. I suggest you only grind a small amount at a time.
Keep freshly ground Sichuan pepper in airtight containers away from heat & direct sunlight.
Use it within two to three weeks for optimal taste.