Young Green Peppercorns (Prik Thai On, พริกไทยอ่อน) are the original source of heat and spice in Thai cuisine. The more well known bird chilis weren’t introduced to the Thai food lexicon until European visitors brought them from the New World. And unlike bird chilis that bring a biting heat, these stalks of fresh green peppercorns bring a gentle warmth and almost fruity pop of pepper flavor to many dishes like Jungle Curry and Pad Cha just to name a few.
When peppercorns are green, they are soft, slightly crunchy and only mildly hot. If left to mature on the vine, the berries turn red – and after some time spent drying in the sun, become black peppercorns (something we know a lot about in the West). The tough thing about finding young green peppercorns outside Southeast Asia is that they are usually sold pickled in jars – or frozen, losing the vibrant green color and, more importantly, fresh spicy pop of the jungle in the process. If you are lucky enough to find stalks of young green peppercorns at an Asian grocery near you, snap them up (all of them!) and prepare to be delighted by a texture and taste endemic to the ancient flavor of Thai cuisine, entrenched well before people started even caring what year it was.