'There's certainly too much pepper in that soup!' Alice said to herself, as well as she could for sneezing. — Alice in Wonderland (1865). Chapter VI: Pig and Pepper. Note the cook's pepper mill.

Sichuan pepper

Sichuan pepper (Chinese: 花椒; pinyin: huājiāo) is a spice from the Sichuan cuisine of China's southwestern Sichuan Province. It has a unique aroma and flavor that is neither hot like chili peppers nor pungent like black pepper. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth due to hydroxy-α-sanshool. It is commonly used in Sichuanese dishes such as mapo doufu and Chongqing hot pot, and is often added together with chili peppers to create a flavor known in Mandarin as málà (麻辣; "numb-spiciness").

Despite its name, Sichuan pepper is not closely related to either black pepper or the chili pepper. It comes from the seeds of at least two species of small trees in the global genus Zanthoxylum (colloquially known as "prickly ash") in the family Rutaceae, which includes citrus and rue. The husk or hull (pericarp) around the seeds may be used whole, especially in Sichuan cuisine, and the finely ground powder is one of the ingredients for five-spice powder. Related species are used in the cuisines of Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand, the Konkani and Kumaoni people of Northeast India, and the Toba Batak of Indonesia.