I discovered the tingly, numbing spiciness of Szechuan peppercorns a few years back and they have become a staple in my everyday cooking. I even have a pepper grinder devoted to them. Szechuan (or Sichuan) peppercorns are not actually related to the black pepper that we are familiar with. The are actually the dried outer husks of the prickly ash shrub. The dark pinkish-red husks are very floral and are famous for the numbing tingle they leave on the tongue and lips. This numbing quality reduces the effect of chilies and is said to be behind the reason why food from the Szechuan region is so intensely hot.
Szechuan peppercorns themselves, are not hot. The heat in Szechuan cooking comes from red pepper which I have included in the rub. The bbq sauce has been spiced up with fresh ginger and sriracha. These are a great alternative to hot wings and are what I would call medium hot. It’s all going to depend on your freshness and heat scale of your red pepper (cayenne). Adjust at will!
Szechuan peppercorns are fairly inexpensive when purchased at an Asian specialty market or you can get them online. If you can’t find them, no worries, these wings are just as delicious without them… I would be more cautious with the red pepper! Chinese five spice powder and hoisin sauce can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets.
Szechuan BBQ Wings
Recipe type: Direct Heat Grilling Serves: 4 as a meal, 8 to 10 as an appetizer
3½ to 4 pounds chicken wings
2 teaspoons Szechuan pepperconns, gound
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ to ½ teaspoons red pepper (cayenne)
For the sauce:
6 tablespoons hoisin sauce
¼ cup sriracha sauce
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns, ground
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1. Separate the wings at the joints; discard the thin outer piece or save for making stock. Place wings on a baking sheet. Stir together the spices in a small bowl and sprinkle half over the wings. Toss to coat the wings and then repeat with the remaining spice mixture. Set aside in the refrigerator until you are ready to grill. The wings can be kept 1 to 2 days covered and refrigerated if planning ahead.
2. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the sauce ingredients and set aside until ready to grill. Sauce may will keep refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to one week.
3. Set up your grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat. Make sure your grates are cleaned and oiled before you start cooking. Grill for 5 minutes and then flip and cook 5 more minutes. Repeat every couple minutes until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink at the bone. Total cooking time will be 15 to 20 minutes.
4. In the last couple minutes of cooking, brush wings with bbq sauce, flip and repeat. Don’t leave on the grill longer than a couple minutes. You want to caramelize the sauce, but it will burn quickly due to the sugar content. Remove wings from the grill and brush with more bbq sauce. Serve hot or at room temperature with any remaining sauce.
Jeff Parker is a freelance food stylist, culinary producer, cookbook author, chef, and owner of Food Crew Culinary Media Services (www.FoodCrew.com). Hobbies include hiking, yoga and all things to do with outdoor living. Jeff is the Culinary Director and spokesperson for Bull Outdoor Products. To get more great recipe ideas and grilling tips, visit grillingoutdoorrecipes.com.