Szechuan Peppered Steak

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I first learned about Szechuan peppercorns and Szechuan pepper salt from the Chinese Cooking cookbook of the Time Life Foods of the World Series. The pepper salt was made as a “dip” for Szechuan duck. Now, I like pepper and salt, which are the ingredients in Szechuan Pepper Salt, but dipping meat into this mixture might even be a bit too much for me.

But the pepper salt is unique and very versatile in cooking, so I decided it was time I made it again.

Szechuan peppercorns aren’t really peppercorns, but they’re called that because of their resemblance to peppercorns. That’s just an assumption on my part. They’re sort of crinkly brownish-black peppercorn-looking balls the size of peppercorns, which have a very aromatic smell to them that I can’t quite categorize. There’s a sweetness, a smokiness, an earthiness…..

So here is the recipe for the pepper salt.

Szechuan Pepper Salt

5 tablespoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns*
1 teaspoon black peppercorns**

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Place the three ingredients in a large skillet and toast everything over moderate heat until the peppercorns just begin to smoke. You will love the smell of these peppercorns – they smell like aromatic smoke from a campfire that you’re smelling while sitting outside in the Alps with hot toddies. Seriously.

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Remove the skillet from the heat, but continue stirring until the mixture is cooled down.

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Place the mixture in some kind of spice blender and grind until finely ground and smooth.

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Using a sieve, strain the mixture. This will catch the skins of the peppercorns and other miscellaneous bits and pieces.

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Place the pepper salt in a jar and seal. Mine always kept indefinitely.

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To test out the peppersalt, try using it for steaks. I coated both sides of two filets with the peppersalt and brought the steaks to room temperature.

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Brown the steaks in hot oil of choice until they are brown on both sides, and continue cooking until rare or medium rare. My steaks were only about 1″ thick, so I didn’t need to use my oven for this result.

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Let the steaks rest, as usual, and then serve. I also sprinkled a little more pepper salt on the cooked steaks. You could also sprinkle pepper salt on grilled veggies instead of the steaks! But I wouldn’t recommend it on everything on your plate because it’s a bit strong.

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verdict: Oh, I have missed you peppersalt!!!

* The original recipe calls for only 1 tablespoon of Szechuan peppercorns, but I prefer this ratio. Otherwise everything ends up too salty.

** The original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of black peppercorns, but I upped mine to a whole teaspoon. Only do that if you like pepper. But the flavors of the real peppercorns and the faux ones are dynamite!!!

40 thoughts on “Szechuan Peppered Steak

  1. Would you believe that when I moved to Kansas last year I somehow lost my bag of Chinese peppercorns that was a special gift from a Chinese grad student? Your post made me moan in pain thinking about it – I need to get some more, and make this salt….

    pinning you (well, pinning your post rather) for future reference!

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  2. I love szechuan pepper : this is perfect in every meal ! I love the first picture too : it looks like a huge family dinner and I miss these kind of lunch in America :) That’s wonderful !

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  3. Wonderful spice blend, however, I have two questions. Why do you put the salt in the skillet to heat as heating should do nothing to the flavor of the salt like it does the peppercorns. Second, why strain it? It would seem the skins would provide texture. I’m not critiquing but I am curious.

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    • Ok Stefan, I mean Richard !
      1. I don’t know. I made a note that next time i would at least toast them separately because the peppercorns lack density and just float on top of the salt, which is why I stirred a lot. Or, I’d just toast the peppercorns.
      2. If you look at the photo of the peppercorn “skins” you can see that they’re like little shells or seed pods and you don’t really want to eat them. Sort of why you wouldn’t want to eat cardamom pod shells.

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  4. I’ve got to know sichuan ‘pepper’ only recently and so far have only used it for chicken kung pao. Like your vivid description of the smell! For me there is also something fresh about them, a bit like lemon perhaps?

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