White pepper consists of the seed of the pepper plant alone, with the darker-coloured skin of the pepper fruit removed. This is usually accomplished by a process known as retting, where fully ripe red pepper berries are soaked in water for about a week, during which the flesh of the pepper softens and decomposes. Rubbing then removes what remains of the fruit, and the naked seed is dried. Sometimes alternative processes are used for removing the outer pepper from the seed, including removing the outer layer through mechanical, chemical or biological methods.
Ground white pepper is often used in cream sauces, Chinese and Thai cuisine, and dishes like salad, light-coloured sauces and mashed potatoes, where black pepper would visibly stand out. White pepper has a slightly different flavour than black pepper, due to the lack of certain compounds present in the outer fruit layer of the drupe, but not found in the seed. A slightly sweet version of white pepper from India is sometimes called Safed Golmirch (Hindi), Shada golmorich (Bengali), or Safed Golmirch (Punjabi).
Pepper is native to South Asia and Southeast Asia and has been known to Indian cooking since at least 2 BCE J. Innes Miller notes that while pepper was grown in southern Thailand and in Malaysia, its most important source was India,
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