Friday, July 1, 2011

Where have all the Toasted Salt and Sichuan Peppers (Huajiaoyan) gone?

It is regrettable that the traditional dip for Chinese style deep fried chicken is fast vanishing and has been replaced with sweet chilli sauce in most restaurants in the last couple of years. This dip commonly known as “Huajiaoyan” (Toasted Salt and Szechuan pepper) or simply called “Pepper and Salt “ is served with deep fried chicken and to eat it in the traditional fashion, pick a piece of the chicken with a pair of chopsticks and dip each piece into the huajiaoyan before eating. I am pretty sure you have tasted Sichuan peppercorns before. It has an array of aliases, such as pricky ash,fagara, sansho and huajiao. It makes an excellent dip for a variety of dishes especially crispy-fried chicken.

Although not botanically related to the black or white pepper, Sichuan pepper is certainly its culinary cousin. Unlike its cousin, Szechuan pepper lends to its own characteristic flavour which produces more of a numbing pungency that gives the tongue and lips a tingling effect than the spicy heat that lingers in the mouth which is normally akin to the after-effect of eating a chilly. Well, before it vanishes into the horizon and joins the forgotten list of traditional food, here is a recipe for keepsake.

Huajiaoyan (Toasted Salt and Sichuan Pepper)

4 tbsp salt.
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
½ tbsp black peppercorns.
Heat wok over moderate heat and pour in the Sichuan peppercorns and the black peppercorns. Stir about 1 minute or until the peppercorns release its fragrance. Pour the peppercorn into a mortar and grind them into a fine powder. Reheat the wok and pour in the salt. Stir until the salt just begins to turn golden brown. Pour it into a bowl to cool. Mix the ground peppercorns with the salt. Store in an air tight container and it will keep indefinitely if kept dry.

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