Sarawak white pepper is a great way to introduce musk, liquorice aromas and clean, sharp heat to dishes which might be overwhelmed by black pepper flavours. The peppercorns come from the Malaysian state of Sarawak in mountainous Borneo, and are widely considered to be the best white pepper in the world, recently being awarded a geographical indication (GI) status.
Sarawak white pepper starts off looking like any other peppercorn – as the small, dark berries are left to darken and mature on the pepper vines before being harvested. The Sarawak pepper is then bundled into jute bags, and plunged into running water for a week – a process called “retting”, which loosens, and ultimately separates the dark outer casing from the peppercorn, revealing the cream-coloured inside.
Because white peppercorn lacks some of the strong flavours found in the black outer casing, it makes a great seasoning for fish – which might otherwise be overwhelmed by strong black pepper flavours. The white Sarawak pepper is also great with noodles, spicy beef strips, and ‘black and white pepper rubs’, traditionally used to season steaks. Julia Child always insisted that white pepper should be used in a traditional French béchamel sauce so you don’t have unsightly black flecks.
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