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Bunge Prickley Ash Oil

shantihhh's picture

When I was shopping the other day at 99 Ranch, a large Asian Market here in California (also Taiwan and Indonesia) I noticed a 250ml bottle of something called Bunge Prickley Ash Oil.  I picked one up and at the checkout asked the lady what it was.  She looked at it, and said I am Vietnamese and don't know this one.

 On the back label it does say chilli Oil and is from Sichuan product of China.  Well, I became quite curious as I haven't seen this before and have many shopping Asian markets for over 20 years and have been to various regions of China dozens of times, and we had a Vietnamese/Chinese foster daughter for many years who taught me alot of the cuisines.

Zanthoxylum piperitum/alatum/acanthopodium/rhetsa: Four regional types of szechwan pepperFour types of culinary sichuan pepper: Upper left Nepali timur (Zanthoxylum alatum), upper right Indonesian andaliman (Z. acanthopodium), lower left Indian tirphal (Z. rhetsa), lower right Chinese jiao (Z. piperitum/simulans) (200 dpi scan).

I found that this Bunge Prickley Ash is also known as Chin Pepper.Feng Pepper.Yan Pepper.Yehua Pepper. Scarlet Gown Golden Pepper.Chuan Pepper.Red Pepper.Shu Pepper.Zhuwei Pepper and that it has an aromatic and spicy flavor.  We tasted it and were surprised at the lingering heat, very nice flavour but not like pepper.

According to the exporter:
It is mainly produced in north and southwest China Its function includes dehumidification cold dispelling tooth eye and internal organs improvement and gain relieve It can be used in seasoning with multiple functions.


AHA, I knew at once what this was-Sichwan Pepper which is called  Gaira in Bengali,  Darman in Hindi, and Mak kak  in Thai.

In Chinese cooking, sichuan pepper is often used in the form of flavoured salt (jiao yan [椒盐, 椒鹽] or hua jiao yan [花椒盐, 花椒鹽]). To prepare this typical Sichuan flavouring, coarse salt and dried sichuan pepper are toasted together until some smoke evolves; after cooling, both are ground together to coarse powder. This “peppered salt” is a common table condiment in China. Occasionally, flavoured salt also prepared from black pepper instead of Sichuan pepper (hu jiao yan [胡椒盐]).

A similar usage is found in Japan, where the spice (sansho, sanshō, sanshou [山椒]) is produced from the species Z. piperitum: The popular condiment shichimi tōgarashi [七味 唐辛子, しちみ とうがらし] is composed of hot red chiles, sichuan pepper, tangerine or orange peel and smaller amounts of black and white sesame seed, poppy seed and sea weed (nori [海苔, のり]). All components are ground together to a coarse texture. Shichimi tōgarashi is mainly a table condiment which is sprinkled over noodle soups and hotpots.

The Japanese variant of sichuan pepper is also used to flavour meats fried on a hot plate (teppanyaki [鉄板焼き, てっぱんやき]); unfortunately, it is often substituted by the cheaper white pepper, particularly outside of Japan. Japanese sichuan pepper is mostly traded ground, and it has both a fresh, pleasant lime fragrance and a well-developed pungency.

Zanthoxylum sp.: Sichuan pepper (?) fruitsRipe sichuan pepper fruits Zanthoxylum simulans: Sichuan pepper fruitsSichuan pepper fruits

Korean cuisine is probably the only in the world that utilizes two different Zanthoxylum species. Chopi [초피] is exactly the same species as Japanese sansho and very similar to Chinese jiao; it is used for a wide variety of foods (meat, fish, vegetables), sometimes even for kim chi (see chile). On the other hand, sancho [산초] derives from the related species Z. schinifolium and is a uniquely Korean flavouring wholly distinct from Japanese sansho; is has a mild, aromatic flavour somewhat in between of Thai horapha basil and star anise. The ground seeds often flavour pickles and hot sauces.

In Western and South Western India, cooks sometimes use another relative of sichuan pepper with slightly larger capsules (Z. rhetsa = Z. limonella); it is called tirphal [तिरफळ] in Marathi and triphala [ત્રિફળા] in Gujarati. Usage of that otherwithe unknown spice is mostly restricted to India’s West coast (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka), where it is used for fish dishes. Contrasting the conventional Indian cooking habits, it is normally not combined with other spices since its flavour is considered delicate and gets easily lost among other spices. Chinese Sichuan pepper is a fully satisfying substitute.

Sichuan pepper on one of the few spices important for the cuisines of the Himalayan peoples, for example Tibetan and Bhutani cookery. Because of the unique climate, few spices can be grown in Tibet; instead, flavourings of animal origin are used, especially various types of cheese. The national dish of Tibet and Nepal is a kind of stuffed pasta called momo [मोःमोः]. I love Momo a wonderful sort of ravioli!  The most popular version of this dish, sha momo, uses a stuffing of ground beef (or yak) flavoured with sichuan pepper, garlic, ginger and onion. The noodles are traditionally simmered in yak broth, but today more often steamed due to Chinese influence. They are served dry, topped with chopped chives and together with a fiery chile sauce.

In Nepali cooking, a local species of sichuan pepper (Z. armatum = Z. alatum) is used as a spice. The dark, almost black, capsules are significantly more pungent than the Chinese ones; their scent is very strong, almost pervasive, and very spicy; it reminds more of rose and cassia than to lemon, although it lacks any sweet quality. Nepali sichuan pepper is used for curries and pickles; it’s one of the most frequently used spices in the cuisine of Nepal.

Here is the tree it grows on:

Zanthoxylum simulans: Huajiao (Sichuan pepper) with prickle and fruit

 The dried fruits of sichuan pepper and its relatives have an aromatic odour that, for most species, can be described as lemon-like, with more or less pronounced warm and woodsy overtones. Some of the species have deviating flavour, e.g., Z. alatum (spicy) and Z. avicennae and Z. schinifolium both of which have an anise aroma.

Zanthoxylum piperitum: Ripe fagara fruitsRipe sichuan pepper fruits

The taste of most species is pungent and biting; it may take some time to develop, but in the end produces a strangly numbing, almost anaesthetic feeling on the tongue. Again, Z. schinifolium is an exception because it has only small pungent quality.

Sichuan pepper (Z. piperitum) leaves have a fresh flavour somewhat in between of mint and lime.

In China it is used in noodle dough and various ways.

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Bunge Prickley Ash Oil