Sichuan pepper is not like any of its namesakes, the smell and taste are unique. It has a citrus aroma, in fact, it is a member of the citrus family and creates a mild pleasant numbness in the mouth. Sichuan pepper and related plants grow across China, Thailand, Nepal, and India and the seed cases are used primarily in cooking. In most recipes, the seed cases or husks are toasted and crushed and usually added to dishes during the last few minutes of cooking.
Sichuan pepper is a staple ingredient in Sichuan cooking, often alongside chilli pepper, in dishes like Mapo Tofu and Sichuan Hotpot. Sichuan pepper is used to flavour cakes, biscuits and is even used as a flavouring in beer. Sichuan pepper is sometimes added to Chinese Five Spice and can also be used to make a flavoured oil. Hua jiao yan is a mixture of salt and Sichuan pepper, toasted and browned in a wok, and served as a condiment to accompany chicken, duck, and pork dishes.