Flavour of Spice (9789350099094) by Reshii Marryam H

Flavour of Spice (9789350099094) by Reshii Marryam H

Author:Reshii, Marryam H.
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Hachette Book Group USA
Published: 2017-10-16T16:00:00+00:00

It is believed that there are more than 63 varieties of pepper, not all of them edible or even closely related to what we know as pepper. Like with so many other spices, in the case of pepper too, etymology leads to confusion. Take Sichuan pepper, for instance, which is not really a pepper at all but the fruit of a bush called the prickly ash. And thereby hangs a tale. The English named the bush thus for the thorns that the branches undoubtedly have, but the word ‘ash’ probably comes from the leaves of the tree that resemble those of the ash (Fraxinus excelsior), without being related to it in the least.

Sichuan pepper comes from plants in the genus Zanthoxylum, which includes so many species, from so many various continents, that it is a botanist’s nightmare to separate all of them. It is neither a chilli pepper nor a black pepper. And besides the common Sichuan pepper, there are many other variants: a Japanese version whose leaves are crushed to make sansho pepper, a Korean version, one version from Nepal, another from Uttaranchal and one from the west coast of India, which includes Goa, north Karnataka and parts of Maharashtra. Here, in the western part of the country it is known variously as triphal, teflem, jumman kai and teppal. Like all its cousins across the globe, Zanthoxylum rhetsa (the Indian coastal variant) grows from a thorny tree.

One can spot the teppals in any market in Goa, sold in bunches tied with twine and, depending on which month you visit the market, they will be either dark green and not quite open, or brownish-black and open, with the central shiny seed removed. (The seed has to be discarded in all species of Zanthoxylum, for it has a bitter taste and a gritty texture.) All the essential oils are carried in the pericarp or leathery outer skin. It does bear a cursory resemblance to Sichuan pepper, but the skin of teppal is far from being papery and brittle. Bite into one, and in a few minutes, you will feel your mouth becoming strangely numb: the reason why it is referred to as ‘mouth-numbing pepper’. However, to achieve the strange but not unpleasant mouth-numbing sensation, one has to follow a few rules: You do not grind teppal; when the your dish is almost done, you add three or four berries whole, but without the seed, and let it cook; by allowing the cooked dish to stand for fifteen minutes, the character of the teppal infuses through the preparation.

Its astringency cuts out the fattiness of certain fish like mackerel. Potatoes, beans and lady’s finger – all the vegetables that, according to Ayurveda, have a heavy effect on the digestion – benefit by being cooked with tirphal, and the iconic Goan shark curry, ambotik, always contains triphal.

People from the Konkan region settled all over the world discover, to their horror, that they are unable to replicate the tastes of home without it. That’s when


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