Sichuan pepper

Sichuan pepper production at home?

Posted by Fuchsia on May 15, 2011
Agriculture, Sichuanese cuisine, Unusual delicacies / 29 Comments

Look at this beauty! It’s a tiny Sichuan pepper tree! It was a present from Richard S., a friend of the Oxford Food Symposium’s, who managed to track one down in a specialist nursery in the UK. He told me he’d give me one a long time ago, and here it is! The leaves have some of that bewitching pepper fragrance if you squeeze them between your fingers. I have no idea how long it will take to bear fruit, but I hope it will eventually – I have seen one fruitful Sichuan pepper tree growing in Oxford, so I know it’s possible in the English climate! At the moment it’s sitting in a pot on my sunny, south-facing windowsill, but I hope to transplant it to my parents’ garden in Oxford before too long, where it will have more room to grow.

As those of you who have read my ‘Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper’ may know, I have never quite got over abandoning a tiny Sichuan pepper tree from Hanyuan at Beijing airport a few years ago. I had transported it very tenderly all the way from the mountains of Hanyuan to Beijing, but Britain was in the midst of the foot and mouth epidemic, with widespread paranoia and tight restrictions on agricultural imports, and I chickened out at the last moment and left it behind.


The true pepper

Posted by Fuchsia on June 09, 2010
Ingredients, Sichuanese cuisine / 12 Comments

Chengdu spice stall

My acupuncturist friend Simon came for lunch the other day, and one of the dishes I cooked was that old favourite mapo doufu (Pock-Marked Old Woman’s beancurd). For some reason we ended up talking about Sichuan pepper, and Simon mentioned that he had some stocks in his pharmacy. I doubted that it would be as zingy as the best stuff, so I sent him home with a sample of the pepper I use (a gift from my chef friend Yu Bo), with strict instructions to try his regular pepper first, and then try chewing a bit of mine. His comments, copied below with his permission from an email he sent me yesterday, are a good illustration of what it’s like trying fantastic Sichuan pepper for the first time!

Continue reading…


A world first?

Posted by Fuchsia on September 28, 2009
Unusual delicacies / 8 Comments

Sekerci Cafer Erol

While I was in Turkey, my friend Aylin took me to a marvellous sweet shop in Kadıköy – Sekerci Cafer Erol, an old family business specialising in lokum (Turkish delight) and pulled sweets in all kinds of exotic flavours. The proprietor, M. Nurtekin Erol, let us taste various things, including some experimental lokums made with flavourings such as Turkish coffee and black pepper.

Of course I’d arrived in Istanbul with a small supply of Chinese cooking spices, just in case, and so I returned to the shop a few days later with a pot of top-grade Sichuan pepper from my friend Yu Bo’s restaurant in Chengdu. I thought they must have fun playing with it, and told them a little about its uses in Sichuanese cookery. Continue reading…

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