Szechuan/Sichuan Peppercorn Chicken Stir-Fry
Marinade chicken strips for a minimum of 20 minutes.
Sort and toast peppercorns (see notes on peppercorn sorting below) by placing them in a small, hot pan. Stir or swirl peppercorns constantly until the aroma is released. Remove to a bowl and cool. Grind peppercorns in a clean spice grinder or use a mortar and pestle. Coffee bean grinders work great for this purpose, but make sure it is clean otherwise you will impart a coffee flavor to the dish. We have a dedicated grinder used only for spices. You can also use a rolling pin and baggie.
Add ground peppercorns back to a working bowl, add a pinch of salt and mix. Coat the chicken pieces in the peppercorns and set aside.
Heat a wok to high heat. When hot, add the oil, ginger and garlic and stir-fry to release the aromatics--about 20 seconds. Add the chicken and sear for about 1 minute. Add the onions, peppers and the bulb portions of the green onions and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir-fry sauce an additional 1 minute until chicken is thoroughly cooked and the vegetables are softened but still crisp. Add the green portions of the green onions and stir-fry about 15 seconds.
Remove to plate, garnish if desired and serve with rice or noodles.
Garnish plate with finely chopped green onion ends--just the green portion--and a scallion flower - click here to learn how to make a scallion flower. Drizzle chili oil around the edges of plate.
Szechuan peppercorns have a strong and unique flavor. If this is the first time you are making this dish, you might want to start with
Szechuan peppercorns have an aromatic, woody, citrusy flavor that creates a tingling, and lightly numbing, sensation in the mouth. In small amounts, this is pleasurable and enhances the dish. In large amounts it overwhelms the dish and is unpleasant.
Look for high-quality peppercorns and sort them before using. The berries used to make the peppercorns are sun-dried until they split open, so they appear to be just husks. The berries naturally have a small black seed in the middle which you do not want to uses as it is bitter and gritty. Even in high-quality peppercorns, some seeds and stems slip through so sort your peppercorns to make sure you only use the flavorful husk.
The first time we made this dish, we did not sort and the resultant dish was not pleasant tasting. Then we did our research and can now pass it along to you so you don't make the same mistake.