Monday, July 12, 2010

Sichuan Pepper (Teppal/ Tirfhal) - An Essay

There are many who love and get mesmerised by the subtle pungent aroma of this herb - Sichuan Pepper or Teppal. The outer black colored pod in the dark black berry fruit is used in ample amount of cooking in Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, Tibetan, Nepalese and Korean cooking. The flavour is not pungent but very subtle which leaves a deep numbness on your palate once you eat it (even if by mistake). Every year we get abundant supply of these unique flavoured pods from our native place in Goa, Mumbai and Mangalore.

The younger bunches are plucked from the tree once the fruit is completely formed which is dark greenish in color and then sold in market in bunches of 10's and 20's tied together. I recall visiting my friend's farmhouse in Goa, India during childhood days where we saw plenty of Sichuan Pepper trees ready for harvest. In the local market, you will vendors selling bunches of dark greenish barries tied together and sold for a tiny sum. We get the bunches from the local market and sun-dry them. With gradual exposure to sun for around a week or two, the green berry dries to separate the black outer hard shell, leaving a black berry and over a period of time dropping off the black fruit. The black fruit is discarded and the outer shell is retained for culinary use. Quite amusing but the outer black skin is used for culinary use and the black berry is discarded, which often confuses people on the appropriate use of Sichuan Pepper. In Goan Konkani, this is known as Tirphal or Tirfhal or Tirfala. In Manglorean Konkani, it is known as Teppal.

Sun-dried Sichuan Pepper twigs on a bunch

Mostly the Pepper pods are used for dishes which have fish and coconut as the primary ingredient. These outer pods provide excellent aroma to the curry and should NOT be ground along with the curry else you will feel the numbness on your palate for hours together. These Pepper pods are added as a supplement along with the curries to enhance the flavour. Since I have hardly seen them at stores here in US, I make sure I get my supply from India. Some of my friends have found them in Chinese stores in US and go by the name of Chinese Pepper or Sczhezwan Pepper or Sichuan Pepper. The outer pods which are used for many a Konkani, Marathi and Goan dishes, blend well with Fish curries, Kadhi's and other Coconut based preparations. Few dishes which we make with Sichuan Pepper are - Teppal Kadhi (With Coconut), Koddel (With Teppal), Aambat (With Teppal), Stir Fry (Sukke) etc.


  1. Nice article. Thank you!

  2. Do you know where Sichuan peppers are available in Bombay?

    1. @ Anonymous -

      More often than not, they are available at local markets (Bazaar). That's where most of my family members get their stash from. Hope this helps.


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