Sichuan pepper (or Szechuan pepper) is the outer pod of the tiny fruit of a number of species in the genus Zanthoxylum (most commonly Z. piperitum, Z. simulans, and Z. schinifolium), widely grown and consumed in Asia as a spice. Despite the name, it is not related to black pepper or to chili peppers. It is widely used in the cuisine of Sichuan, China, from which it takes its name, as well as Tibetan, Bhutanese, Nepalese, Japanese, Konkani, and Toba Batak cuisines, among others. It is a close relative of the African spice, uzazi. Sichuan pepper has a unique aroma and flavour that is not hot or pungent like black or white pepper, or chili peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth, almost like a carbonated beverage, that sets the stage for hot spices.
Szechuan Peppercorns are one of the traditional ingredients in the Chinese spice mixture five-spice powder. Recipes often suggest lightly toasting the tiny seedpods, then crushing them before adding them to food. Only the husks are used. The shiny black seeds are discarded or ignored as they have a very gritty sand-like texture. Szechuan peppercorns are generally added at the last moment. Star anise and ginger are often used with it prominently in spicy Sichuan cuisine.