Recently I crave for a spicy dish. Not just a spicy dish but one that delivers an electrifying shock to my sensation buds when I put the food into my mouth. I am talking about a type of prickly ash shrub (“zanthoxylum”) that is native to China and has been around in ancient time, the “Sichuan Peppercorn”.
It is like treasure hunting to find where to buy this tiny little husks from the seeds depending on where you live. A better chance is at a large Asian supermarket in a big city or an Asian suburb or you can order online.
It comes in two varieties – the red is the most common that has been around since ancient time, whereas the green is introduced in the nineties. They both have the aroma and flavour of lemony citrus overtone with a hint of pine note and a unique after taste of numbness in the mouth. The difference is the intensity between the two. The green has a higher level of lemony citrus overtone and lesser of the after taste sensation on numbness. To get the best experience is to combine both the peppercorns, freshly ground them in your kitchen on the same day you want to use it.
Sichuan spicy chicken
A sumptous, spicy and nutritious stir-fry recipe using freshly grounded Sichuan pepper for that prickly sensation.
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon freshly grounded Sichuan pepper (adjust according to your own taste)
- 6 chicken thigh boneless and skinless
- 1 red capsicum
- 4 celery sticks
- 4 spring onions
- 5 cloves garlic
- 8 dried chilies
- 1 large thumb size ginger
- light soy
- dark soy
- Chinkiang black vinegar
- Chinese cooking wine
- sesame oil
- chili oil
- cooking oil
- corn starch
- salt to taste
- Making freshly ground Sichuan pepper. Heat 1/2 teaspoon red and 1/2 teaspoon green Sichuan peppercorn in a low-medium heat. Once toasted but not burnt, remove and let it cool down. Using mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, ground the peppercorn until quite fine
- Cut the chicken into dice pieces and marinade with 1 tablespoon light soy, 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine, 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil, a dash of salt and 1 teaspoon corn starch. Mix through and refrigerate for at least 2 hours
- Cut the red capsicum and celery into bite pieces
- Cut the spring onions into halves. Separate the lower half for frying and the top half for garnishing
- Cut the garlic and ginger into thin slices for frying
- Heat a frying pan or wok with 1/2 cup cooking oil. Once the oil is hot, toss in the marinated chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides, remove and set aside. Do this in two separate batches
- In the same oil, toss and fry the ginger first. Then add the garlic, follow by spring onions and dried chilies, and the freshly grounded Sichuan pepper
- Add the chicken back in. Continue frying. Add the sauce – 2 tablespoons dark soy, 2 tablespoons Chinkiang black vinegar, 1 tablespoon chili oil. Add the vegetables and season with some salt
- Remove and garnish with spring onions. Serve with a bowl of steamed rice