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Sichuanish BBQ: Crispy Sichuan-Pepper Pulled Pork and Quick-Pickled Cucumbers

Author: Taylor Holliday | The Mala Market | Inspiration & Ingredients for Sichuan Cooking


(Ingredient sizes revised August 2021)

  • one 3- pound pork shoulder (aka Boston butt)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1½ to 2 tablespoons freshly ground Sichuan pepper (see note)

Optional cucumber accompaniment

  • 1 English cucumber, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons
  • Leftover rub mixture
  • 1 Thai red chili, thinly sliced
  • white rice vinegar to taste (not sushi vinegar)


  • Score the fat cap of the shoulder in a diamond pattern, cutting through the fat just to the meat. Combine the salt, sugar and ground Sichuan pepper in a small bowl, and rub the mixture onto the fat, in the crevices and on all sides of the butt, covering the whole thing generously. (You may have some leftover rub.)
  • If you have time, refrigerate several hours or overnight in a covered bowl.
    Otherwise, marinate the shoulder at room temperature for an hour or two. Then transfer to a rack placed inside a roasting pan.
  • Pre-heat oven to 300° Fahrenheit and cook uncovered shoulder for approximately 6 hours, or 2 hours per pound. If pork becomes too brown toward the end, loosely tent it with foil. Test it by pulling at the side with a fork. When the meat breaks loose easily, it is done. [Every piece of meat is different, with different ratios of lean to fat. I recently revised and simplified this recipe, but some pieces of meat will require extra time.]
  • Remove pork from oven and let rest before shredding with two forks or chopping with a cleaver. Serve with rice, steamed bao, tortillas or butter lettuce, with or without a sauce of your choice.
  • To make the pickled cucumber accompaniment, place slices in a colander and rub some of the remaining salt-sugar-Sichuan-pepper mixture into the cucumbers (taste as you go to determine how much). Let cucumbers cure and release their juices for about a 20 minutes. Combine cucumbers with chilies in a bowl and add white rice vinegar and a bit of water, to taste.


Ground Sichuan pepper: Sort Sichuan peppercorns and discard any black seeds or twigs. Toast in a dry skillet or toaster oven until pods start to smell very fragrant, but do not brown them. Let peppercorns cool, then grind in a spice grinder or in a mortar & pestle to your desired coarseness. Sift out any yellow husks that don't break down. Sichuan pepper powder will retain its potent flavor and numbing punch for only a few weeks.