Má jiāo is a powerful pepper, with a clear citrus and lavender aroma, characteristic of Sichuan pepper from China. The berry is smaller and darker than that of the famous Dà hóng páo hua jiāo, but the sharpness of the two is not different.

This Sichuan pepper is the dried berry of the Zanthoxylum piperatum, one of the many types of tooth pine, called prickley ash in English, because of the huge spines on the trunk and branches. The pepper is called Sichuan pepper after the region where it naturally grows, Sichuan or Szechuan, home to one of the ten classic Chinese cuisines. In China it is called the 'tingling pepper', or Má jiāo.

The Zanthoxylum is a plant that can grow into a large tree. Its bark appears to be covered with a row of corky 'teeth', hence the Dutch name 'kiespijnboom' meaning toothache tree. In traditional Chinese medicine, the peppers and the root are used to combat toothache,  not surprisingly given the appearance of the tree.

The ripe berry is picked early in the fall, as soon as the berries burst open and the fairly bitter seeds are released. The seed houses are traditionally dried in the sun, but better varieties are not (anymore). The better quality Szechuan pepper - including this one - contains no or hardly any seeds and no or hardly any stalks, and is dried conditionally.

There is a clear difference in taste between the smaller berry of the Zanthoxylum piperitum and the controlled produced larger berry of the Zanthoxylum bungeanum or Dà hóng páo huā jiāo. On the Chinese consumers market, but also in other Asian countries (and Europe), the smaller and often darker berry is the most sought after, partly due to the lower price. The 'old guard' in China holds on to the taste of this smaller szechuanpepper, especially the immature berries, one can buy practically everywhere.

The unique sharpness experience of sanshol

Characteristic of all Zanthoxylum peppers, and therefore also of Sichuan pepper, is the tingling sensation you experience on the tip of your tongue due to a substance in the pepper called sanshool, named after the Japanese sanshō. The sharpness is caused by the amides in the skin of the fruit: α, β, γ and δ-sanshool, α hidroxy sanshool and β-hidroxy sanshool. For the narcotic effect, γ sanshool and α hidroxy sanshool are primarily responsible. The amount of α-hidroxy-sanshool in the berries can amount to (more than) 50 ‰ of the dry weight, of γ sanshool around 5 ‰.

Sichuan is known as the most pungent Zanthoxylum pepper. In addition, the Indonesian andaliman - a fairly rare species - is conveniently forgotten, because this 'Batak pepper' is also pretty pungent. By the way, ripened berries are more pungent than the unripe ones.

The tingling is accompanied by a slight anesthetic, jokingly compared to tasting a 9-volt battery. A single berry is enough to experience that! This somatosensation, stimulation by touch, has been used for centuries as an anesthetic in traditional medicine in Asia. The operation is very complex and subject to extensive studies. Hydroxy-α-sanshol in particular would cause tingling, and there are certain parallels with the sharpness perception of capsaicin, the sharp substance in chili pepper, but also with menthol and mustard oil.

Smell and taste

The Sichuan berry contains

  • linalyl acetate, responsible for a pleasant citrus, bergamot and lavender scent,
  • limonene, the scent of lemon zest,
  • geraniol, rose scent,
  • geranyl acetate, lavender scent.
  • β-pinene, pine resin, and
  • linalol, responsible for the scents of rosewood and coriander

A ripe berry contains considerably more linalol, geraniol and geranyl acetate than a green berry.

The aromas develop during ripening, red and Szechuan pepper dominate citrus and lavender.

Combinations

Sichuan pepper combines perfectly with citrus (kafir leaf), sereh, coconut, coriander leaf, curry leaf, exotic fruit, poultry, crustaceans and shells.

Usage

Sichuan pepper occupies a prominent place in the classical and modern Sichuan kitchen. It is used in almost every dish, whole or bruised, roasted and / or ground. In the Sichuan kitchen it is very common to roast the pepper before grinding it. Roasting is intended to bring out the taste of sun-dried berries. Roasting is not really necessary for our pepper as it hasn't been sun-dried.

Sichuan pepper is one of the ingredients of five-spice powder (wǔxiāng fěn).

For those who are not familiar with Sichuan pepper, it is advisable to start with caution and not to eat the pepper raw, unlike the Nepalese timur for example, which can be eaten excellently raw.

Characteristics:

  • 100% berries from the Zanthoxylum bungeanum
  • origin: northern part of China
  • harvest 2019

Availability

  •  in standing bag, glass and test tube
  • standing bags contain 30, 45, 150 and 300 grams respectively
  • test tubes 10 ml
  • glass jar contains 30 grams

Gift packages

  • the cubic box is suitable for packaging one glass jar and is supplied with a sheet of black tissue paper
  • the flat box has a flat 'velvet' inlay, and is suitable for  our small and medium-sized pouches (150 and 250 ml), marked with an arterisk *. Capacity: 4-5 bags, depending on the type of spice
  • for further details (and images) of our gift packaging, please refer to the product page

General advice

  • Má jiāo is the Sichuan pepper that is excellent for use in wok, braised and stewed dishes from the Chinese Szechuan kitchen
  • use Sichuan pepper sparingly, and choose to use the berries whole or ground
  • let the Sichuan absorb moisture well, so that the taste and sharpness integrate optimally
  • keep the pepper in a dark, dry and cool place
  • the expiry date is an indication
  • keep it in a dry and pretty cool place
  • the expiry date is meant as an indication

Best before

  • December 2022
Origin
China Szechuan
Botanical name
Zanthoxylum (Rutaceae) Zanthoxylum piperitum
Ingredients
No additions 100% dried fruit, practically de-seeded
Allergen information
Contains no allergenes

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Red Sechuan pepper Má jiāo

  • €4.75


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Tags: sichuan pepper