March 10, 2022
Anupy's Spice Corner: This week, I showcased a few Indo Chinese recipes and in them used a touch of white pepper. Even if you don't think you use this spice, I am going to bet that you do. Have you used black pepper? Well, then. You've essentially - kind of - used white pepper. The two spices come from the same source, a berry from a vine that is the pepper plant.
If the berry is picked before it has a chance to ripen it is being harvested to make black pepper as we know it in the West. It is picked and then dried. The skin on the outside darkens and essentially shrivels up. Those are the hard, dried, black peppercorns that we know and love.
Now, if you let those berries ripen then you're creating what will likely become white pepper. These ripe berries are then picked and soaked through a process called retting in which the outer skin softens and then with a little rubbing essentially falls away. The light-colored inner berry is then dried and that becomes white pepper.
Why does it matter? It matters in terms of taste and aesthetics. First, the taste. White pepper has a muskier and sharper taste profile versus its black counterpart. It is the 'it' factor when it comes to making Chinese food and really getting it to taste restaurant quality. My fried rice is never good enough until I add the ground white pepper. It is also used extensively in Thai and Portuguese cuisines.
White pepper can also give you the taste you would like from black pepper without the black flecks. Say you are making a light, creamy sauce and you don't want to change the color. Then go for the white pepper.
Keep in mind you don't want to let go of black pepper entirely. Remember that the outer layer has other nutritional properties that are healthy and healing. We'll get into that soon along with what green, pink, and red peppercorns are all about. For now, go grab some white pepper and let's get cooking!
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