Szechwan Pepper and Ginger Mixed Sprouts

Szechwan Peppercorns (02) by MeetaK

Brrrr!!! It's cold out there. With temperatures sinking down to -20 degrees C, it's beyond cold out there! The day was postcard perfect - clear blue skies, puffy white clouds matching the fresh powder snow and frozen snow crystals on the trees. Each time a sun ray caught a crystallized branch it glittered a rainbow of colors. I so badly wanted to take a few pictures to show you - but I think I would have frozen before I even got around to setting up my equipment. 

As I left the cozy warmth of the house and took the first deep breath I think everything in my mouth, nose and lungs froze instantly. Nonetheless it's such a refreshing feeling, to feel your skin tingle with the cold air.

I'm all huddled up on the sofa right now and thought I would share a gorgeously aromatic dish I made a few days ago, spiced with ginger and Szechwan peppercorns. 

Szechwan Peppercorns

Szechwan Peppercorns (02) by MeetaK

Or if you prefer Sichuan or Szechuan, which ever way you choose to spell it the fact remains that these are rather unique tasting little berries.

Native of the Szechwan province in China, the Szechwan peppercorns are the dried berry of a tree of the rue family. Although they bear some resemblance to the black peppercorns, Szechwan peppercorns do not exactly belong to the pepper family, which is native to India.

There are several varieties of the Zanthoxylum species, which grow throughout the temperate belt of China, Japan, the Himalayas and North America. Although all species have similarities, being aromatic and also used in herbal remedies, it is only the piperitum variety of the East that is actually used in cooking.

Although the Szechwan peppercorns are very aromatic, they are not very hot. Before Asian cultures were introduced to chile pepper, Szechwan pepper was used along with ginger to give heat to many dishes.

The dried berries bear resemblance to tiny beechnuts measuring about 4 - 5 mm in diameter. Szechwan peppercorns are rust colored with hair-thin stems and open ends. Their rough skin splits open to reveal a fragile black seed, which is about 3 mm in diameter The spice it self, however mainly consists of the empty husks. I

You can buy Szechwan pepper either whole or ground. In Japan the leaves are used as spice, where the ground dried leaves are known as sansho and the whole leaves, kinome. These are freshly vacuum-packed or pickled.

The Szechwan peppercorns have a warm pepper-like bouquet with a hint of citrus. There are warm and woodsy overtones and some species have a stronger anise aroma.

Szechwan peppercorns have a unique aroma and flavor that is not hot or pungent like black or white pepper, or chili peppers, but has slight lemony overtones and creates a kind of tingly numbness in the mouth.

Preparing and Storing Szechwan Peppercorns

It is always advisable to buy the whole peppercorns and grind whenever required. The best way to extract the full aroma of the berries is to gently roast to release their fragrance before crushing with a mortar and pestle or electric coffee grinder. Only the husks are used, discarding the seeds. If you desire a fine powder, sieve to remove the husks and stalks. Store in airtight containers, out of sunlight.

Szechwan peppercorns are generally added towards the end. Often star anise and ginger are used to complement the flavor in spicy Szechwan cuisine.

Szechwan Pepper and Ginger Sprouts (04) by MeetaK

In this dish a tiny amount of Szechwan peppercorns were dry roasted then gently crushed. Once my sprouts and vegetables were just about ready I added the crushed berries to the wok. Tossing it quickly. A perfect light, aromatic and healthy dinner.

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Recipe: Szechwan Pepper and Ginger Sprouts

Printable version of recipe here.

500g mixed sprouts, I used sprouted sunflower seeds, mung bean sprouts, radish seed sprouts and lentil sprouts
1 bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
1 bunch chives, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
20g fresh ginger, cut in juliennes
100g mixed vegetables, cut in juliennes. I used carrots, yellow bell peppers and parsnip
1-2 teaspoons Szechwan peppercorns, dry roasted and gently crushed
1-2 tablespoons canola oil


  1. Heat the oil in a wok until hot, swirling the wok to coat it in the oil. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until transparent and fragrant.  

  2. Add the mixed sprouts and vegetables and stir fry for approx. 2-3 minutes, then add the herbs and toss.

  3. Sprinkle in the Szechwan peppercorns and salt to taste, stir and allow the Szechwan peppercorns to unfold their aroma - approx. 1-2 minutes.

  4. Serve immediately with steamed brown rice.

Serving Tip: I love serving this with a mustard and coriander seeds pilaw or a serving of sautéed spinach and bok choy with soy sauce, ginger and garlic.


Szechwan Pepper and Ginger Sprouts (03) by MeetaK

I love this simple and easy dish. It's prepared within minutes and the aromatic pleasures that are evoked by the combination of ginger and Szechwan peppercorns is purely fantastic. This is the typical type of meal I would cook up for myself when my boys are away. I then curl up on the sofa watching The Tudors and simply savor not only the food but also Jonathan Rhys Meyers!

This is my first time taking part in Heart of the Matter hosted over at dearest Ilva's Lucullian Delights. This month she is asking for Slimmer Recipes. Hope she enjoys a bowl full of these delicious mixed sprouts!

You might like these flavorful quickies from WFLH:

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  1. This sounds like a perfect winter warmer Meeta...great flavours!

  2. This is really yummy delicious and healthy.
    I do have the schewan pepers here, and have only used them once.
    Love the picture of the peppers.
    Here too it is cold, yesterday it was a bit better.
    Happy Newyear to you, Tom and Soreen.

  3. oh!! my!! this is really fabulous...who'd have thought sprouts could look so glamourous....sunflower seed sprouts are a first for me....the colours are beautiful!!

  4. I love Szechwan pepper and ginger, so your scrumptious looking dish really makes me drool! I adore these fresh looking pictures...



  5. looks nice. I must learn to make sprouts that nice :-) what a lovely way to lose weight :-)

  6. I make salt and peppered sprouts the Chinese way but like your version!

  7. Oh yes, she does! Gorgeous photos, recipe and I appreciate all the information! Thanks a lot Meeta!

  8. Mmmm...!! Sounds and looks delicious! Great start for 2009. Happy new year! :))

  9. Very interesting read meeta, & it looks simple superb & fresh. I badly need something like this now after all those cakes & cookies.

  10. Looks very healthy. Am gonna be looking for those little peppercorns the next time...

  11. I never realised one could make sprouts look so good! They almost look like noodles. And radish seed sprouts - have heard those for the first time.

  12. I have been enjoying sichuan peppercorns lately and this sounds like a great way to use them.

  13. Wow...the blogosphere is getting all healthy this month. :)

    Love sprouts..have been eating them since I was a child...first forced by my mom..n now quite

    Great recipe.

  14. OMG, this sounds so delicious and wholesome!! I just HAVE to try it this week. Ummm.......just thinking about it makes me hungry. Thanks for a great idea Meeta. Stay warm!

  15. hi meeta

    the sprouts look wonderful........and i have just one the sichuan peppecorns the same as the teppal or triphal that is used in konkani cuisine

  16. Hi everyone thanks for all your comments!

    I am sure you will love the flavors this simple dish will give. Together with the ginger it really is an explosive mixture.

    Ben, you need to get your hands on these I am sure you will find them at your Asian store. The taste takes a bit of acquiring but once you have tried it a few times you'll really love to love it!

    Priyadarshini, it's comes from the same specoes - Zanthoxylum species and there are several varieties of this type of berries. Some have an intense lemony flavor and others more of an anise flavor. The Szechwan peppercorn is of the Z. piperitum variety. I am sure one can substitute teppal but there might be a slight difference in the taste.

  17. FREEEEEEEZING here too - stay warm!!

    Lovely dish!!

  18. That is so perfect for Heart of the Matter! and it would be so perfect for me!! Wonderful.

  19. Lovely! Beautiful like always. But, what a wonderful recipe!
    About three weeks ago I tried to find Szechwan peppers in a very good and huge Asian store. They didn't have any. Guess i have to keep searching further. there are quite a lot of Asian shops out there. As long as i find one which has them. Booohooo! No, I'll be optimistic :D

  20. Szechuan peppercorns are still difficult to find in my local Asian groceries, but here in the US, Penzeys does sell them by mail (, and the pepper are very fresh and flavorful.

  21. hey, go skiing!! it's much more fun enjoying winter that way hehehe just a piece of mind really. i like every season and i think each of them brings specific mood. however, we'd like to get away to Bali to avoid the freezing point in here. well, enjoy your winter, MK!

  22. Very, very healthy and such vibrant colors.

  23. Love, love, love the shots. Your food styling skills rock, Meeta. Kudos.


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