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This article is about Szechuan pepper or Chinese pepper. For Japanese pepper, see sanshō (spice).
Sichuan pepper
Poivre fond blanc.jpg
A handful of Sichuan pepper

Sichuan pepper, Szechwan pepper or Szechuan pepper, a common spice used in Asian cuisine, is derived from at least two species of the global genus Zanthoxylum, including Z. simulans and Z. bungeanum. The botanical name comes from the Greek xanthon xylon (ξανθὸν ξύλον), meaning "blond wood". It refers to the brightly coloured sapwood possessed by several of the species. The genus Zanthoxylum belongs in the rue or citrus family, and, despite its name, is not closely related to either black pepper or chili pepper.

The husk or hull (pericarp) around the seeds may be used whole, especially in Szechuan cuisine, and the finely ground powder is one of the ingredients for five-spice powder. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. The pericarp is the part that is most often used, but the leaves of various species are also used in some regions of China.[1]

Another species of Zanthoxylum native to China is Z. schinifolium, called 香椒子 (xiāng jiāo zi, lit. "aromatic peppercorn") or 青花椒 (qīng huā jiāo, lit. "green flower pepper"), used as spice in Hebei.[1] Yet another Zanthoxylum species provides the African spice uzazi. Because all 250 or so species of the genus seem to possess at least some of the aromatic and complex chemicals that enliven food, it is likely that most Zanthoxylum species have been used at some time as a spice.[citation needed]

While the exact flavour and composition of different species from the Zanthoxylum genus varies, the same essential characteristics are present to some degree in most. So, while the terms "Sichuan pepper" and "sanshō" may refer specifically to Z. simulans and Z. piperitum, respectively, the two are commonly used interchangeably.[2]

Related species are used in the cuisines of Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand and the Konkani and Toba Batak peoples. In Bhutan this pepper is known as 'thinge' and is used liberally in preparation of soups, gruels and phaag sha paa (pork slices).[citation needed] In Nepal, Timur is used in the popular foods momo, thukpa, chow mein, chicken chilli and other meat dishes. It is also widely used in homemade pickles. People take Timur as a medicine as well for stomach or digestion problems, in a preparation with cloves of garlic and mountain salt with warm water.[citation needed]


Recently harvested Sichuan pepper (known locally as 大红袍花椒, dà hóng páo huā jiāo[3]), being dried on the roadway in Linxia County, Gansu

Sichuan pepper is known in Chinese as huājiāo (花椒; literally "flower pepper"). A lesser-used name is shānjiāo ( ; literally "mountain pepper"; not to be confused with Tasmanian mountain pepper[excessive detail?]), which is also the root of the Japanese sanshō (山椒?). Confusingly, the Korean sancho (산초, 山椒) refers to a different if related species (Z. schinifolium), while Z. piperitum is known as chopi (초피).[4]

The name hua jiao (lit. "flower pepper") in a strict sense refers to the Northern China peppercorn, Z. bungeanum, or at least that appears to be the common consensus in current scholarly literature.[5][6][7] However, hua jiao is also the generic term in commerce for all such viable spices harvested from the genus. This includes Z. simulans Hance), identified by a taxonomical authorities as the yě huā jiāo (野花椒, lit. "wild peppercorn"),[5][8] though elsewhere given as "chuān jiāo' (川椒, lit. "Sichuan pepper"[9]), leading to the tendency to regard this the bona fide "Sichuan pepper".

The Indian subcontinent uses a number of varieties of Sichuan pepper. In Konkani it is known as tephal or tirphal.[10] In Nepali, Z. alatum is known as timur (टिमुर)or "Timbur", while in Tibetan, it is known as yer ma (གཡེར་མ)[4] and in Bhutan as thingay.It is also called current mirchi commonly.[citation needed]

In Indonesia's North Sumatra province, around Lake Toba, Z. acanthopodium is known as andaliman in the Batak Toba language[4] and tuba in the Batak Karo language.[citation needed]

In America, it is possible to come across names such as "Szechwan pepper," "Chinese pepper," "Japanese pepper," "aniseed pepper," "sprice pepper," "Chinese prickly-ash," "fagara," "sansho," "Nepal pepper (Timur)," "Indonesian lemon pepper," and others, sometimes referring to specific species within this group, since this plant is not well known enough in the West to have an established name.[citation needed] Some brands also use the English description "Dehydrated Prickly Ash" since Sichuan pepper, and Japanese sansho, are from related plants that are sometimes called prickly ash because of their thorns (Note however that purveyors in the US do sell native prickly ash species (Z. americanum), because it is recognized as a folk remedy[11]). In Kachin State of Myanmar, Jinghpaw people widely use it in traditional cuisine. It's known as Ma Chyang among Jinghpaw people. Its leaves are served as one of ingredients in cooking soups.[citation needed]

Culinary uses[edit]

Fruits and seeds

Sichuan pepper has a unique aroma and flavour that is not hot or pungent like black, white or chili peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth (caused by its 3% of hydroxy alpha sanshool) that sets the stage for hot spices. According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, second edition, p429 they are not simply pungent; "they produce a strange, tingling, buzzing, numbing sensation that is something like the effect of carbonated drinks or of a mild electrical current (touching the terminals of a nine-volt battery to the tongue). Sanshools appear to act on several different kinds of nerve endings at once, induce sensitivity to touch and cold in nerves that are ordinarily nonsensitive, and so perhaps cause a kind of general neurological confusion."

Recipes often suggest lightly toasting the tiny seedpods, then crushing them before adding them to food. Only the husks are used; the shiny black seeds are discarded or ignored as they have a very gritty sand-like texture. It is generally added at the last moment. Star anise and ginger are often used with it in spicy Sichuan cuisine. It has an alkaline pH and a numbing effect on the lips when eaten in larger doses. Ma la (Chinese: 麻辣; pinyin: málà; literally "numbing and spicy"), common in Sichuan cooking, is a combination of Sichuan pepper and chili pepper, and it is a key ingredient in má là hot pot, the Sichuan version of the traditional Chinese dish. It is also a common flavouring in Sichuan baked goods such as sweetened cakes and biscuits.[citation needed]

Sichuan pepper is also available as an oil (Chinese: 花椒油, marketed as either "Sichuan pepper oil", "Bunge prickly ash oil", or "hwajiaw oil"). In this form it is best used in stir-fry noodle dishes without hot spices. The preferred[by whom?] recipe includes ginger oil and brown sugar cooked with a base of noodles and vegetables then rice vinegar and Sichuan pepper oil are added after cooking.[citation needed]

Hua jiao yan (simplified Chinese: 花椒盐; traditional Chinese: 花椒鹽; pinyin: huājiāoyán) is a mixture of salt and Sichuan pepper, roasted and browned in a wok and served as a condiment to accompany chicken, duck and pork dishes. The peppercorns can also be lightly fried in order to make a spicy oil with various uses.

Sichuan pepper is one of the traditional ingredients in the Chinese spice mixture five-spice powder.

In Indonesian Batak cuisine, andaliman (a relative of Sichuan pepper) is ground and mixed with chilies and seasonings into a green sambal Tinombur or chili paste, to accompany grilled pork, carp and other regional specialties. Arsik, a Batak dish from the Tapanuli region, uses andaliman as spice.

Sichuan pepper is one of the few spices important for Nepali (Gurkha), Tibetan and Bhutanese cookery of the Himalayas, because few spices can be grown there. One Himalayan specialty is the momo, a dumpling stuffed with vegetables, cottage cheese or minced yak meat, water buffalo meat or pork and flavoured with Sichuan pepper, garlic, ginger and onion is served with tomato and Sichuan pepper based gravy. Nepalese style noodles are steamed and served dry, together with a fiery Sichuan pepper sauce.

In Korean cuisine, two species are used: Z. piperitum and Z. schinifolium.[4]


Important aromatic compounds of various Zanthoxylum species include:

U.S. import ban[edit]

From 1968 to 2005,[13] the United States Food and Drug Administration banned the importation of Sichuan peppercorns because they were found to be capable of carrying citrus canker (as the tree is in the same family, Rutaceae, as the genus Citrus). This bacterial disease, which is very difficult to control, could potentially harm the foliage and fruit of citrus crops in the U.S. It was never an issue of harm in human consumption. The import ban was only loosely enforced until 2002.[14] In 2005, the USDA and FDA lifted the ban, provided the peppercorns are heated to around 70 °C (158 °F) to kill the canker bacteria before import.


  1. ^ a b Hu 2005, p. 504
  2. ^ Johnson, Elaine. These Asian spices are lively secrets. Sunset, 1 March 1993.
  3. ^ 临夏县概况 (Linxia County overview)
  4. ^ a b c d http://gernot-katzers-spice-pages.com/engl/Zant_pip.html
  5. ^ a b Zhang & Hartley 2008
  6. ^ Hu 2005,p.504
  7. ^ Zhou, Jiaju; Xie, Guirong; Yan, Xinjian (2011), Encyclopedia of Traditional Chinese Medicines - Molecular Structures (preview) 1, Springer , p.209
  8. ^ zh:花椒 (retrieved from ver. 2011.12.20 11:55)
  9. ^ Hu 2005
  10. ^ aayisrecipes.com
  11. ^ Garrett, J. T. (2003), The Cherokee herbal: native plant medicine from the four directions (preview), Inner Traditions / Bear, ISBN 9781879181960 , p.184
  12. ^ Wijaya, CH; I Triyanti and A Apriyantono (2002). "Identification of volatile compounds and key aroma compounds in andaliman fruit (Zanthoxylum acanthopodium)". Journal of Food Science Biotechnology 11 (6): 680–683. 
  13. ^ http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=33acb14307df8d21bb6cf83ad438d2b3&node=7:
  14. ^ Landis, Denise (4 February 2004). "Sichuan's Signature Fire Is Going Out. Or Is It?". The New York Times. p. F1. 


External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sichuan_pepper — Please support Wikipedia.
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Hartford Courant
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:30:47 -0700

You'll not find that frustrating sameness at recently opened Sichuan Pepper in Vernon, which has a different style but gives Lao Sze Chuan a run for its money. And if there's any doubt as to the restaurant's intention to remain authentic, there's a ...
Tue, 16 Sep 2014 06:30:00 -0700

1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper. 1 clove garlic, minced. 2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced. 1. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain, and rinse under cold water. Drain again, and transfer to large bowl. Add carrot, cucumber and ...
Sat, 13 Sep 2014 06:37:12 -0700

... “Retour des Indes”: John Dory (a.k.a. Saint-Pierre or Peter's Fish) steamed with seaweed then served in a coconut milk sauce inflected with a blend of spices including mace, star anise, coriander seeds, caraway, Sichuan pepper, clove, vanilla, and ...


Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:30:02 -0700

“I was brought up with Chinese cinema, from black-and-white to modern,” he explains, “In Journey for Man, I used Sichuan pepper and incense to express shading and drama. Journey for Woman articulates the Osmanthus flower, mostly native to Eastern Asia ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Sat, 06 Sep 2014 21:59:21 -0700

... red chilli flakes and a cute cotton bag of Sichuan pepper at the ready, I made a real plum sauce. It simmers for long enough to scent your home, briefly, with that of a Chinese grocer's shop – that ancient-aniseed-meets-pickle-meets mustiness that ...

Good Food

Good Food
Mon, 01 Sep 2014 21:36:04 -0700

... sugar and cooked mince and stir-fry for two minutes. 4. Add the tofu, breaking it up as you go, and the coriander, and simmer for 30 seconds. Tip into your serving dish, sprinkle over the Sichuan pepper, dust with a little extra chilli powder and ...

Herald Scotland

Herald Scotland
Fri, 05 Sep 2014 19:09:04 -0700

Last year I planted a Sichuan pepper, Zanthoxylum simulans, the only spice you can grow in the UK according to the writer James Wong. The mild winter undoubtedly helped, but it has grown prodigiously, providing lots of pickings of tender young shoot tips.

Raw Story

Raw Story
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 04:15:00 -0700

And sichuan pepper is big in New York cocktails. “Tactility of the mouth,” says Conigliaro, “is something I've been lecturing about for a while.” He talks about how having something tiny done at the dentist feels so exaggerated and huge, as an example ...

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