I am on a pepper kick these days – first pink, now these. Pippali is the Sanskrit word for the long pepper and is actually the same root word from which the English term pepper is derived. Again, this is one of those overlooked spices that can seamlessly transition into regular use once you’ve tested it out.
In fact, the long pepper was used over black pepper for quite some time throughout history by the Romans, Greeks and other parts of Europe. There was a trade advantage because the spice was grown in the northwestern region of India and was, therefore, more accessible than black peppercorns further south. Once chiles arrived from the New World and trade to the Malabar Coast increased making black pepper cheaper and more widely used, the long pepper declined in popularity.
Pippali pepper is grown in India, but another version also comes from Java. The spice is used today in South Asian cooking as well as in North African, Indonesian and Malay cuisine. It’s popular in Ayurvedic medicine and has a host of uses – longevity, aphrodisiac qualities, analgesic, and digestion aid to name a few.
The flavor of long pepper is hard to capture. Each cattail-like comb contains dark red seeds, and its smell is reminiscent of good incense. That muskiness combines with a sweet quality, a bit like cardamom or cinnamon, and a touch of floral. It still has heat like the black pepper but is way more complex – a bit more pungent and it lingers on the tongue.
Honestly, I crush up these guys and throw them into my pepper grinder. Although they are popular in South Asian pickles and vegetarian stews, I love the flavor with beef and pork. It’s awesome as part of a dry rub for barbecue because it totally jives with smoky flavors. But it works well in place of black pepper too for everything from salads and vinaigrettes to your morning eggs.
Would love to hear if you have tried cooking with it and favorite uses!