Jaiur: The Meghalayan Answer To Sichuan Pepper
- Shireen Jamooji
Updated : August 11, 2022 06:08 IST
The Winged Prickly Ash is known the world over but it has a special place in Meghalayan cuisine
Nature has provided us with a vast treasure trove of natural ingredients and thanks to our more outdoorsy and industrious ancestors, we know how to put them to use in creating delicious food. And it must have taken a particularly brave individual to even approach, let alone eat the Winged Prickly Ash plant. Slightly threatening to look and equally aggressive in taste the Zanthoxylum Armatum plant is known on the streets as Sichuan Pepper. But although it’s commonly associated with Chinese cooking, it actually has a long and rich history in North East India as well where it’s known as Jaiur in the local Khasi language.
It was primarily valued as a medicinal plant and historically has proven useful in treating rheumatism, arthritis, tooth decay, gastro problems and even diarrhoea. But it was the exciting effects it has on our tastebuds that really cemented them as a favourite around the kitchen. Chomp on a few of these and prepare for a wild ride as your mouth goes numb as the hydroxy-alpha sanshool takes effect. It even has the ability to temporarily alter your tastebuds transforming other flavours tasted along with it or even shortly after.
They grow wild and are easy to care for so many families in Meghalaya have some of these shrubs in the back garden. The raw fruits are eaten before meals to stimulate the appetite while the dried version is turned into a spice of condiment. In Meghalaya, the most popular use is as a chutney. Fermented fish known as tung tap is ground with Jaiur into a paste and served as a condiment with many meals. The tender young leaves are also used in curries as a flavour enhancer.
This quintessentially North Eastern spin on a global ingredient evokes the essence of the region and provides a unique taste of Meghalaya.
● 4-5 pcs tung tap
● 1 fried fish or steamed potato
● 1 steamed tomato
● ½ tbsp Turmeric, salt to taste,
● 6-7 red chillies
● 2-3 bulb onions
● 2-3 spring onions (jyllang)
● 4-5 Jaiur (Sichuan Peppercorns)
● Take 3-4 tung tap and smoke it or fry it till it turns brown.
● Slice organic turmeric into 4-5 slices (or use turmeric powder) Add salt, chillies, spring onions and Jaiur (Sichuan pepper), onions, and garlic.
● Grind all the above ingredients in an electric grinder or pound them by hand with a mortar and pestle.
● When everything blends together; mash 1 steamed potato or 1 dried fish and add to the above ingredients.
● Add 1 steam tomato to thin the mixture a bit into a paste.
● Grind or pound it to a smooth consistency.