a bowl of kung pao chicken with red chili peppers beside it

Tien Tsin pepper (Tianjin)

Tien Tsin peppers, sometimes called Chinese red peppers, are vibrant small red peppers commonly utilized in various culinary preparations, such as the renowned kung pao chicken. These peppers add a fiery heat and a striking red hue to the dish, enhancing its spiciness and visual appeal. With their intense flavor profile, Tien Tsin peppers are a cherished ingredient that brings a distinct touch to many culinary creations.

Facts about
Tien Tsin Peppers

Heat level:
50,000 - 75,000
Capsicum annuum

Where are Tien Tsin peppers from?

Tien Tsin peppers, also referred to as Tianjin peppers, originate from northeastern China, specifically Tianjin. This region has gained recognition for cultivating these fiery little peppers, which impart a spicy kick to various dishes. Renowned for their heat and flavor, Tien Tsin peppers from Tianjin are a sought-after ingredient that adds a zesty punch to many culinary creations.

Tien Tsin pronunciation

Tien Tsin is pronounced “tea-in sin”.

How hot are they? 

Tien Tsin peppers deliver substantial heat that will tantalize the taste buds. These peppers generally fall within the 50,000 to 75,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) range on the Scoville scale. 

To put it into context, Tien Tsin peppers are hotter than jalapeños while still milder than habanero peppers’ fiery intensity. With their impressive spiciness, these peppers provide a bold and spicy kick that can elevate the flavors of your culinary endeavors.

Are Tien Tsin peppers edible? 

Yes, Tien Tsin peppers are indeed edible. These peppers are widely utilized in various culinary applications and are recognized for their remarkable spiciness. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that the heat level in Tien Tsin peppers can vary, and individuals may perceive them as exceptionally spicy. When incorporating Tien Tsin peppers into your dishes, it is advisable to exercise caution, handle them carefully, and optionally remove the seeds to manage the heat. It’s always a good idea to adjust the quantity of peppers according to your personal preference for spiciness, ensuring an enjoyable culinary experience.

What do they look like?

Tien Tsin peppers possess distinct visual characteristics that set them apart. These small peppers showcase a slender and elongated shape, akin to cayenne peppers. 

They typically measure approximately 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters) in length. The peppers feature thin skin with a wrinkled texture on the surface, lending them a unique and textured appearance. Regarding color, Tien Tsin peppers are strikingly vibrant, predominantly displaying a bright red hue. This vivid red coloration adds an appealing visual element to dishes in which they are incorporated, enhancing the flavors and aesthetics of culinary creations.

What do they taste like?

Tien Tsin peppers offer a distinctive taste experience primarily defined by their potent spiciness. These peppers bring heat to the palate, with the level of spiciness varying depending on the maturity of the pepper.

While they possess subtle fruity and smoky undertones, their spicy punch takes center stage. Tien Tsin peppers are often described as having a pungent, peppery, and vibrant flavor profile. When used in culinary preparations, these peppers impart an intense and spicy kick, elevating the overall taste sensation of the dish.

Common culinary uses

Tien Tsin peppers find widespread use in Asian cuisine, particularly in East Asian countries such as China, Japan, and South Korea. These peppers have made a notable impact on culinary traditions across the region.

“Kung Pao Chicken” is a popular dish in America that incorporates Tien Tsin peppers as the primary source of heat, adding a spicy element to the dish. While Tien Tsin peppers have strong roots in Asian cooking, their versatility allows them to be enjoyed in various cuisines, especially by those who appreciate spicy flavors. Whether you’re preparing Asian-inspired dishes or experimenting with other culinary styles, Tien Tsin peppers can satisfy spice enthusiasts’ cravings.

Are tien tsin peppers the same as Sichuan peppers?

No, Tien Tsin and Sichuan peppers are not the same. While both peppers are used in Chinese cuisine, they have distinct characteristics and flavors from different regions of the country. Tien Tsin peppers are small red chili peppers known for their heat. They add spiciness to dishes and contribute to the flavor profile of Chinese cuisine.

On the other hand, Sichuan pepper (sometimes also spelled Szechuan peppers) usually refers to Sichuan peppercorns or “Chinese prickly ash”. They are not chili peppers but rather the dried husks of the prickly ash shrub, similar to what we use for black pepper. It’s also worth noting that Sichuan cuisine is distinct from Tianjin cuisine, coming from southwestern China rather than Northeastern China. 

Sichuan peppercorns offer a unique sensory experience with a numbing and tingling sensation, commonly called “ma” in Sichuan cuisine. Sichuan peppers are a key ingredient in popular dishes like mapo tofu and Kung Pao chicken, adding a distinctive flavor and mouth-numbing effect.

While both Tien Tsin peppers and Sichuan peppers have their place in Chinese cuisine, they come from entirely different types of plants, provide different taste experiences, and play different roles in culinary creations.

Where to get them 

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Tien Tsin peppers can sometimes be obtained from local Asian grocery stores, fresh or dried. These specialty stores catering to Asian cuisine typically have diverse ingredients, including Tien Tsin peppers. 

If you can’t find these peppers locally, marketplaces such as Amazon offer the convenience of purchasing dried Tien Tsin peppers from the comfort of your own home. With various online sellers and suppliers, you can easily find and order Tien Tsin peppers to incorporate their fiery heat into your culinary adventures.