Szechuan Pepper, what image does the term evoke in your mind? Is it a deliciously spicy Chinese dish that leaves you pining for more of it? If you have a spicy toot, this kitchen ingredient is a must on your counter to take your dishes, and delicacies to the next culinary level. Wouldn’t you agree? Well, Sichuan pepper powder has several health-aiding properties. And, in this blog, we will be discussing them at length.
When you have any food seasoned with Schezuan pepper, you may find it hard to stop eating. You could get addicted to it! Szechuan pepper has a strong flavour that leaves your tongue with a tingling sensation. It numbs your tongue, opening the pores of the taste buds, which is good, as it enhances the flavours of the other ingredients.
What is Szechuan Pepper?
Szechuan pepper (Sichuan pepper, Schezwan pepper, Chinese prickly ash, Chinese pepper, rattan pepper, and mala pepper ) is a very common spice in Chinese, Tibetan, Nepalese, and Thai cuisine. It is spicy “exterior-cover” of berries belonging to the “prickly-ash” tree. It is a composite spice from the Zanthoxylum genus, but is closely related to citrus fruits, rather than typical black peppercorns, as people typically assume. It is also one of the ingredients that is used in Chinese “five spices” powder.
The Prickly ash tree is a citrus family, a flowering plant native to the mountainous Szechuan region of China. It is a small-sized tree featuring numerous short, stout spines appear on the woody branches and leaf petioles as in a lemon plant. During winter, flowers appear in slender cymes which subsequently develop into tiny reddish-brown berries by the end of spring. Once the berry is ripe, it split open to release round, black seeds from inside. After the deseeding process, the “outer coat” (husk) is gathered and employed as “Schezwan peppercorn spice”, and their seeds are discarded. Schezwan peppercorn are different from black peppercorns which are native to the Indian subcontinent, in plant characteristics, aroma and hotness. Szechuan peppers feature anise-like flavor with slight tangy taste and produce less pronounced pungency than black peppercorns. (Source)
What does Szechuan pepper taste like?
The aroma of Szechuan pepper (Schezwan pepper or Sichuan pepper) has been linked to Lavender. The taste is best described in two dimensions. In flavour wise, Schezwan peppercorns have a sharp, pungent, yet flavorful, coverings. It will give you a special citrus flavor with biting pungent taste. Well, the interesting part is the sense- wise, it creates a tingling numbness in the mouth.
The first taste is bitter, then numbing heat, followed by citrus. Its main claim to fame is the powerful numbing sensation it causes around the mouth which no other spice has.
I simply love to cook the Szechuan peppercorns with rice or noodles. It takes fried rice recipe to the next level.
8 Health Benefits of Szechuan Pepper:
Szechuan pepper contains different nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants that are required by the body to function properly. Some of the most significant components include vitamin A, potassium, manganese, iron, copper, zinc and phosphorus. In addition to these nutrients, it also has a wide variety of phytosterols, carotenes and terpenes. It is one of the most popular spices in the world, with countless health benefits. Schezwan pepper can stimulate the immune system, to reduce pain, boost appetite, increase blood circulation, strengthen bones, and reduce inflammation.
- Helps stimulate circulation: If you are feeling lethargic, lightheaded, and weak you may be suffering from anemia due to iron deficiency. Consuming Sichuan pepper may help increase the hemoglobin content in your body and stimulate the circulatory system as it contains a high amount of iron.
- Helps reduce pain: Sichuan pepper functions as an analgesic and the chemicals present in it can occupy the pain receptors. It thus helps eliminate the nervous system from generating discomfort and pain. This may not be a cure for pain, but it acts as a treatment and can be used for topical application on the affected area.
- Helps improve immunity: This pepper contains a high level of zinc, a potent mineral essential for improving the immunity of the body. There are a few signs of zinc deficiency and it can easily go unnoticed which is why it is necessary to keep the zinc content in check. Consuming Szechuan peppercorns might do the trick.
- Helps increase appetite: When you are recovering from illness, it may be difficult to get your appetite back. But to heal your body faster, you need to consume healthy food. This pepper contains various nutrients that stimulate the appetite and improve the speed of metabolism. This way, you can derive the nutrients from the food and heal faster.
- Helps strengthen the bones: This pepper contains essential minerals such as phosphorous, manganese, copper and iron which are necessary to strengthen bones and help prevent age-related conditions such as osteoporosis. It is important to supplement our mineral intake and this pepper is a good source of minerals.
- Helps eliminate inflammation: The peppercorns contain various antioxidants including phytosterols and terpenes; it has natural anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body. Inflammation of the body may be caused due to oxidative stress, which in turn is caused due to free radicals in the body. The compound found in Szechuan pepper neutralizes the free radicals and stops the inflammation at the root.
- Helps protect the stomach: It can also help stimulate the process, and speed up, metabolism while reducing any form of inflammation of the stomach. It can help prevent conditions such as stomach cramps, bloating and constipation.
- Helps lower blood pressure: This pepper contains significant levels of potassium, which is good for cardiovascular health. It also helps relax the blood vessels preventing high blood pressure and lowers the potential effect of cholesterol. Thus, preventing heart attacks and strokes.
Is Szechuan pepper healthy?
I must say it is healthy considering the number of nutrients and minerals it contains. It has been used by Chinese as a spice for cooking for thousands of years.
It is said that Szechuan pepper /Sichuan pepper plays a role in traditional Chinese medicine for healing indigestion, arthritis, diarrhoea etc. together with other plants/herbs. However, its nutritional benefit in food is insignificant as only very small amounts are needed to flavour any dish.
I hope you have enjoyed reading some of the health benefits associated with Szechuan pepper. Do you want to try out this interesting spice? You can visit our store if you would like to buy products where Szechuan pepper is a proprietary ingredient!