Peppercorns or Sichuan Peppercorns, also known as anise pepper or farchiew 花椒, however are not pepper at all. They are the dried red berries of a type of ash tree, with distinct anise-lemony flavor that can best be brought out by dry-frying. As soon as they touches our tongues, we should be ready to feel their numbing quality.
Native to Sze Chuen (Cantonese) or Si Chuan (Mandarin), a province in the south-western part of China, peppercorn is always combined with red chilli to give a ‘numbing and spicy’ taste in cooking nearly all kinds of food, particulary mushrooms, beancurds, beef, mutton, and as seasonings for the soup of Sze Chuen hot pots. Perhaps, it is best to describe peppercorn as the signature spice of Sze Chuen. One saying goes like this, “should peppercorn is omitted in Sze Chuen’s menu, it is like cooking Italian food without garlic”.
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