Sansho, la saveur boisee de la cuisine japonaise. (The wood flavor in Japanese cuisine.)

Leaves and green peppercorns of sansho.

Sancho is a “pepper” tree. It’s an extremely important source of flavor in Japanese cuisine.
Actually, it’s “Sichuan pepper”. Well, posting from Japan, I am not allowed to write it ?
Look at it on wikipedia. Travelling in the South of China, North of Thailand, I have seen leaves and green seeds of Sichuan pepper and I couldn’t tell the difference. But well, I was been *lectured* several times by Japanese people that “that’s different” and they showed me the pink dry Sichuan pepper.

The difference is in Japan, the peppercorns are used when they are green only. If they are dried, it’s from the green seed. In China, they make the “hoajiao” with mature red peppercorns, and use the green ones mostly fresh.


The young leaves are called “ki no me” (tree sprouts). They are sold as herb. You can also buy a pot with a 30 cm high sansho bush and keep it on your balcony… to feed the local caterpillars -well, my “neighbours” have been seen clearing all the green of a bush in less than one hour.

The leaves can be added to many dishes, soups, sushi rice, etc. I also like pasting some and adding white miso, to make a sauce.

Combi-meal French-Japanese ~Part 2~ Suimono, kinome, wasabi and sake.


The green fresh peppercorns can be used directly in dishes. We find them in June only. I freeze some, that doesn’t change of taste or anything.

A few dishes with fresh sansho :

Al dente folie. All that in my pasta ?

Sansho no nikomi – Sansho peppercorn fish stew

Dry soba for rainy season


It’s a preparation of ingredients simmered in soy sauce, mirin, sake, salt and sugar. In different proportion according to the *only* recipe of each cook… That becomes a condiment, strong in taste and salty, to use in small amounts, on a bowl of rice, or to accent a dish, a meal.
I made these 2 :

Sansho tsukudani.

Kombu seaweed and sansho tsukudani.



5 days later. The “fruits” opened.

I took out the “stones”. I’m not sure I’m using the proper botanic term. Well, you can see.
Then I’ll powder then in a pepper mill, just before using. You can buy powdered sansho in Asian grocery stores.
It’s often served with unagi (Japanese eel).

22 thoughts on “Sansho, la saveur boisee de la cuisine japonaise. (The wood flavor in Japanese cuisine.)

  1. Pingback: Second part of June 2010 : Illustrated Menu « Colorfood Daidokoro Gourmande in Osaka

  2. Je vois que tu es toujours aussi amoureuse de tes sansho!
    A part le tukudani, as-tu songe a faire des tsukemono.
    Ceux de ma femme vont si bien avec les plats de riz!
    Bien cordialement,

    • J’ai bien sur pense aux tsukemonos, mais bon, je n’ai pas eu le temps de tout faire. Et ma capacite d’absorption n’est pas infinie… Je garde l’idee pour l’annee prochaine.

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