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Sichuan chile peppers are long with a cylindrical shape and may be slightly curved. They measure up to 15 centimeters long and 1.5 centimeters wide with green stems that fit on the top of the peppers like caps. The peppers ripen from green to red and are harvested at any stage in development. The fragrant peppers have a shiny skin with a taut, slightly wrinkled appearance. The peppers have medium-thick walls offering a crunchy texture. Sichuan peppers have a mild spice, measuring 15,000 units on the Scoville Heat scale.
Sichuan chile peppers are available in the summer and fall months.
Sichuan chile peppers are a Chinese variety of Capsicum annuum. Sichuan chile peppers are one of the 5 varieties predominantly used in Sichuan cuisine, and are considered a necessary ingredient for obtaining the flavors of the region. In China, they are known as Er Jin Tiao, whereas outside of the region, they are referred to as Chinese red pepper or Hunan pepper. The Chinese name for this Sichuan chile pepper means “double goldenness” or “two golden strips”. In the Sichuan province they are most often used for making chile oil or chile flake.
Sichuan chile peppers are high in vitamin A and contain more vitamin C than an orange. They also contain vitamins B6 and K, folate, potassium, manganese and potassium. They are a source of fiber and amino acids. Sichuan chile peppers get their heat from capsaicin, a compound that also acts as an anti-bacterial, analgesic, and antioxidant.
Sichuan chile peppers are an important ingredient in several of the area’s well-known dishes, like gong bao ji ding, chili pepper chicken and both hot pot and dry pot. The peppers are commonly dried and used whole in sauces, soups and stir frys. Dried peppers are ground into flakes and powders and used in marinades, spice rubs, and to add spice to other recipes. They are commonly used to make chile pepper oil. Fresh peppers can be used to make pastes and sauces. They can be used in place of other cayenne-type peppers or wherever additional spice is preferred. When pickled, Sichuan chile peppers will develop a sour-spicy flavor that is often paired with fish or seafood. To store, keep peppers wrapped in a bag in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Sichuan, or Szechuan, cuisine is well known around the world for its spicy flavors. Fresh Sichuan chile peppers are used make a paste which is then fermented along with a mixture of dried fava beans, wheat and soy flours, and glutinous rice. Known as Pi’xian broad bean paste or Pixian douban, it is so linked to the region that it was given a Protected Geographic Indication at the end of 2005. It took its place among 9 other products that encapsulate the traditions and craftsmanship of the Sichuan province. The chile bean paste is used fresh or is aged and is the main seasoning in the Sichuan dishes mapo doufu and twice-cooked pork.
Sichuan chile peppers are named for the central Chinese province of Sichuan, which is the main growing region for the peppers. The capital, Changdu, is well-known for its chile production and mounth-numbing cuisine. Sichuan, or Er Jin Tiao peppers, are commonly dried or processed into a powder, and shipped all over the world. Locally, they are used to make a chili bean paste named for the nearby county of Pi’xian. Sichuan chile peppers are exported from China and are rarely found outside of their native region; however, these peppers were found in local farm supported markets in British Columbia and Seattle, Washington in the United States.