After an ancho chilli chocolate gelato that Giorgio of Leones Gelato and I had created years ago, after my experiences with spicy ice cream in China, it was time to try making a Sichuan pepper gelato.
The Sichuan Pepper
Of course, it should not be just any Sichuan pepper, it should be one of the types I had brought back from China.
Those are of the highest quality, not just any supermarket material. And it should not be a more usual red Sichuan pepper, but a green one.
The green Sichuan pepper, qing huajiao, comes from a different species than the red one (and I should possibly say all that in the plural) and is harvested unripe.
It is distinguished by its woody-lemony aromas, which are finer, lemony-er than those of red Sichuan pepper, which is less floral.
For a gelato in its purest form, without any other spices or flavoring ingredients, this sounded the best to me.
Giorgio quickly found that a simple milk base would probably be best.
Trial and No Error
The proper amount and ‘delivery’ still needed some trialing.
Should we grind the ‘pepper’ finely? Leave some gritty? And use how much?
Eventually, we chose to go with finely ground Sichuan pepper, directly mixed into the milk.
The only addition became a touch of lemon zest, to elevate the citrus notes.
The Peculiar Effect
Here again – and especially the way it is used here – the green Sichuan pepper shows why it’s also known as majiao, “numbing pepper”.
(I was greatly amused, by the way, when I transported a few k of Sichuan pepper in the subway of Chengdu, and a young woman turned to her friend to comment about that majiao smell ;) )
Fuchsia Dunlop regularly tells the story of Sichuan pepper virgins who chew around on a “corn” of that for too long, then promptly accuse her of wanting to poison them.
“Ma”, What a Gelato!
In this Sichuan pepper gelato, this numbing-vibrating effect, this “ma”, comes to the fore pretty well – and in a way that is extremely good and nice.
It is a gelato unlike any other.
With a woody-citrusy aroma, that is very interesting – and very special.
And with the added effect of that odd vibrating, titillating effect that has no equal and lifts the experience to a whole new level!