Spice – What exactly is “Japanese” Salt and Pepper


On a recent trip to Kyoto, I was eating at a Beef Katsu restaurant and one of the spices they made available for seasoning was described as "Japanese salt and pepper".

The spice blend was mostly white/black/gray in color, with no red.

The blend had really excellent flavor (compared to what I would expect for salt + black pepper), and now I'm curious what exactly it was composed of and whether it has a more distinctive name. Does anyone know?

Best Answer

They may have been trying to describe "salt and Japanese pepper". Japanese pepper is unrelated to black pepper, but closely related to Sichuan pepper; its flavor has been described as "lemony" and it has a "numbing" quality. It's also known as "sansho". Mixtures of pre-ground sansho and salt are readily available in Asian grocery stores. This mixture is commonly sprinkled on grilled meats, so this would be my guess.

Of course, it's also possible they meant black and/or white pepper. There's a number of varietals of peppercorn, and how they are roasted, stored, and ground will have a significant effect on the taste.