Sichuan Peppercorns Love to Mess with Your Mind
How our favorite Chinese spice sets your mouth a-tingle
You know that lip-numbing, tongue-tingling, what-is-that-and-can-I-have-some-more-feeling you get from when you eat salt and pepper shrimp? That’s Sichuan peppercorns having a party in your mouth.
This crinkly red spice is not really a peppercorn, but a citrus berry, the husk of the fruit of the prickly ash tree. It messes with your head by activating the neurons that mimic touch, the same ones that cause your feet to tingle when they fall asleep. The sensation is not unlike licking a 9-volt battery, only fruity and spicy with hints of juniper and pine, and also a little bit addictive.
They’re a signature ingredient in many classic Sichuan dishes like dan dan noodles, ma po tofu, and dry fried beef. The chefs in our test kitchen love them, too. Here are just a few Sun Basket recipes featuring our favorite Sichuan spice: