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I read this article here on why whole peppercorns are used and looked at this quick 30 minute recipe for chicken pho which uses peppercorns instead of pepper.

It just seems a lot more expensive and wasteful to use peppercorns for Chicken Pho.

If I use plain pepper, will it dissolve into the broth? Is there an easy way to modify this recipe for plain pepper?

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    Welcome to SA! When linking a video recipe, it's helpful to summarize the recipe.
    – FuzzyChef
    Feb 3 at 18:06
  • I had a typo, it is a quick 3 minute video, not a 30 minute video. Does toasting the spices prior to adding water add any benefits?
    – k.m.
    Feb 3 at 18:20
  • It's not a typo, the recipe takes 30 minutes, regardless of how long the video takes. The length of time that the cooking takes is highly relevant to your question.
    – FuzzyChef
    Feb 3 at 18:34
  • Also, if you want to ask additional questions, post new questions, don't ask them in the comments.
    – FuzzyChef
    Feb 3 at 18:35
  • 2
    Why is it 'expensive & wasteful'? Pepper, by weight, is virtually the same price ground & whole.
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 3 at 18:42

1 Answer 1

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While one of the answers to the other question addresses this, it's not the chosen answer (which is wrong), and it doesn't really complete the reasoning, so I'm going to answer here.

The reason for adding whole peppercorns to soup and other long-cooking dishes has to do with flavor release. Piperine, the main flavor chemical in black pepper, is highly volatile, and does not dissolve in water. This is why, for most dishes, you add any black pepper near the end of cooking or even when plating the dish. If you add ground pepper any earlier, most of the piperine will be released by the ground pepper grains and cook out before you eat the dish.

For soups and other dishes where you want the piperine to be released slowly, and give it a chance to penetrate the ingredients (such as the chicken in the chicken pho) before cooking off, you want a "slow-release piperine". Fortunately you have one in the form of whole peppercorns.

You could definitely skip the whole peppercorns in pho, and replace them with ground pepper towards the end of cooking. However, you'd have to figure out several things:

  • how much ground pepper to replace the more subtle whole peppercorn flavor
  • when to add that pepper so that it wasn't either overwhelmingly peppery or cooked off and bland

And, even so, it wouldn't taste exactly like it would if you were following the recipe.

So, to summarize: no, pepper doesn't dissolve in water like salt, and, no, it would not be easy to modify the recipe.

My recommendation: find a cheaper place to buy peppercorns, like a discount food store or an Indian market.

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  • If it does not dissolve, I think some of it might get caught in the strainer, obviously depending upon the size of the pepper grain and if it adheres to other ingredients caught in the strainer. However; water evaporating will not take any of the pepper with it as it does not dissolve into the water.
    – k.m.
    Feb 3 at 18:17
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    I'm not talking about the water evaporating, I'm talking about the piperine doing so.
    – FuzzyChef
    Feb 3 at 18:36
  • Also: the piperine doesn't stay in the ground pepper grains. It gets released. Modified the answer slightly to spell that out.
    – FuzzyChef
    Feb 3 at 18:39

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