Szechuan peppercorns are called by a variety of names, including Chinese pepper, aniseed pepper, Indonesian lemon pepper, Japanese pepper and Chinese prickly-ash, among others. In addition, there are many alternate spellings- Sichaun, Szechwan and Schezuan.
Not a true peppercorn, Szechuan peppercorns are actually the outer pod of the fruit of an aromatic shrub native to the Central Province of China. They have an unusual, sharp, slightly woody flavor with a hint of citrus. They also produce a slight numbing effect which bursts into a tingling sensation on the tip of the tongue. This complex and surprising flavor adds intensity to chicken, seafood and vegetable dishes and is a must-have for Chinese cuisine.
Dry-roasting the berries for 3-4 minutes over medium heat will bring out the best flavor (be sure to discard any burnt berries). Let cool, then grind and use as needed.