There is so much food here in China that I love, from whole roast lamb to sweet and sour pork, but one of the things that I generally don’t like is Sichuan pepper. Sichuan pepper looks like regular pepper corns, but has a kind of electricity to it that isn’t necessarily spicy but will numb your tongue. It’s also known as flower pepper in Chinese.
It’s most commonly found in Sichuan cooking – obviously, hence the name – and is usually combined with red chilies. Now the pepper corns actually have a nice flavor to it, but it’s more often than not used so heavily that you can’t taste anything because your mouth goes numb.
On a recent trip to Shanghai I visited the ice-cream parlor Pree, known for its daring ingredients. One of the specials they had on offer was Sichuan pepper and pistachio. I was expecting to lose all feeling in my tongue, but I couldn’t be further from the truth. The ice-cream had the flavor of the pepper corns, but not the electricity and strength. It’s by far the best use of Sichuan pepper I’ve had the pleasure of eating. There was almost a floral note to it, straying away from its standard savory use.
Fear Factor – 5 – Taste Test – 9