Spice Profile:
Tongue-tickling Timur

A Union Square spice profile: Learn about Timur (a.k.a. Szechuan Pepper) and where to find it in the square. 

Curiously, Bombay Market in Union Square hasn’t been owned by Indians any time recently.  A few years ago, Hari Prasad Lamichhane (at left), who hails from Katmandu, Nepal, bought New Bombay from its previous owners, natives of Bangladesh. Hari has kept the store’s name and continues to carry many items you’d find at most Indian stores—papadam, many types of dal and an extensive spice collection. Yet he also stocks exotic, hard-to-find ingredients imported from Nepal. One such item is timur! The spice looks a bit like a clove but is citrusy and mildly peppery. Although they look like seeds, timur are dried berries from a prickly variety of ash (Zanthoxylum alatum) that grows in the Himalayas. Timur is also used in Chinese cuisine and called Szechuan pepper.

When Hari  gave us some timur, we were beguiled by its aroma and eager to test it out. So we asked our friend Bimala Thapa, a Katmandu native, to teach us how to use it. She shared her recipe for Timur achar (or pickle); it’s served as an appetizer with chapati or as an accompaniment to a meal. It’s quite delicious – and tongue tingling!

This recipe is courtesy of Bimala Thapa, who taught a Nibble cooking class some years back. 

Golbheda ko aachar with timur and dhaniya (Tomato Timur Pickle/Chutney)


3 plum tomatoes
1 green chili
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1 crushed garlic clove (not too big)
4-5 timur (available at Bombay Market, 359 Somerville Ave.)
several sprigs of cilantro
1 tablespoon oil (mustard oil is nice but others work fine, too)

Cut tomatoes in half and place them in a skillet, flat side down. Add chili. Cook for a few minutes, until tomatoes are half cooked. (In the summer, grill the tomatoes instead for great flavor.) Grind timur with a mortar and pestle. Put tomatoes, chile, timur and all other ingredients in a food processor and pulverize. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with any Nepali or Indian meal; or serve with chapati or naan as an appetizer.

Union Square market tours
If you want to learn more about exotic ingredients found in Union Square markets, take a Union Square market tour. Although we don’t currently have any group tours lined up, go here to print out a Union Square Market Brochure and then take a self-guided tour. We have versions in  English, Spanish and Portuguese.  

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