Native to the Szechuan province of China, this mildly hot spice comes from the prickly ash tree. Though not related to the peppercorn family, Szechuan berries resemble black peppercorns but contain a tiny seed. Szechuan pepper has a distinctive flavor and fragrance. It can be found in Asian markets and specialty stores in whole or powdered form. Whole berries are often heated before being ground to bring out their tantalizing flavor and aroma. Szechuan pepper is also known as anise pepper; Chinese pepper; fagara, flower pepper, sansho and Sichuan pepper.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.