Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sichuan Peppercorn how to choose?


Recommended Posts

image.jpeg.ca49c31c853bd52b161c7b6f4daf4d83.jpeg
Hello all, I need help figuring out which part of the sichuan peppercorns I bought to use. From what I've read, I think I'm supposed to use the hulls rather than the black seeds. Toast the hulls and grind them up, correct?  This is for use in my fave dish, mapo tofu. Thanks for your help! 

 

(Well, that didn't work. I guess I don't know how to upload a photo. Nuts. Maybe I don't need a photo? Maybe just tell me whether to use the hulls or the black seeds, or both?)

Edited by SusieQ
bad photo (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

 

I use both.

 

Thank you, liuzhou! So to use, you toast everything and then grind everything into powder, is that right? I've done further research and have found sites that say to discard the black seeds. Do you think this is because of regional differences? 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/27/2019 at 6:24 AM, SusieQ said:

 

Thank you, liuzhou! So to use, you toast everything and then grind everything into powder, is that right? I've done further research and have found sites that say to discard the black seeds. Do you think this is because of regional differences? 

 

 

Yes. I toast them lightly then grind. I too have seen mention of discarding the black seeds, but never met anyone who does so.

 

ETA: That said, the peppercorns I get here are probably better quality and fresher than what you get in the USA. I see very few black seeds.

Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 year later...
On 1/25/2019 at 10:09 PM, SusieQ said:

image.jpeg.ca49c31c853bd52b161c7b6f4daf4d83.jpeg
Hello all, I need help figuring out which part of the sichuan peppercorns I bought to use. From what I've read, I think I'm supposed to use the hulls rather than the black seeds. Toast the hulls and grind them up, correct?  This is for use in my fave dish, mapo tofu. Thanks for your help! 

 

(Well, that didn't work. I guess I don't know how to upload a photo. Nuts. Maybe I don't need a photo? Maybe just tell me whether to use the hulls or the black seeds, or both?)

 

 

You can do either or both, it depends on your personal palate and what your preference is. Sometimes the seeds can be too grainy for certain dishes that are more delicate in texture.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/26/2019 at 3:48 PM, liuzhou said:

 

Yes. I toast them lightly then grind. I too have seen mention of discarding the black seeds, but never met anyone who does so.

Life is short and getting shorter. If I had to pick apart a pinch of peppercorns I would put myself out to pasture.

  • Like 2
  • Haha 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, gfron1 said:

Okay, what about these green szechuan peppercorns I found at the store recently?

My experience with the green ones is that the flavor is overwhelmingly piney and the numbing factor is high. The piney flavor reminds me of retsina.

Link to post
Share on other sites
48 minutes ago, catdaddy said:

My experience with the green ones is that the flavor is overwhelmingly piney and the numbing factor is high. The piney flavor reminds me of retsina.

 

That is the opposite of my experience. I find the green ones less piney and the numbing factors milder. They also have a stronger citrus scent.

  • Like 1

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, boudin noir said:

How long can you keep szechuan peppercorns?

 

They don't go off as such, but they do lose their scent and numbing effect over time. Store in an airtight container in a cool place and they can last about a year, although they will not be as vibrant as younger ones. I always buy the smallest amounts possible, but then they are perhaps easier for me to source.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
  • Like 2

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, gfron1 said:

Okay, what about these green szechuan peppercorns I found at the store recently?

 

Are we talking fresh peppercorns or dried? I've only had the green ones fresh, but coincidentally bought a small packet of the dried ones yesterday. Haven't used yet, but will report back.

 

8 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

That is the opposite of my experience. I find the green ones less piney and the numbing factors milder. They also have a stronger citrus scent.

 

See the above. 🖕

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, liuzhou said:

Are we talking fresh peppercorns or dried? I've only had the green ones fresh, but coincidentally bought a small packet of the dried ones yesterday. Haven't used yet, but will report back.

These were dried on the shelf next to the regular ones.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In North American, Sichuan peppercorn can have a vast amount of seeds and stems. It really can vary. I've seen packages where 50% of the peppercorns still had their pits. Other times I've seen packages with less than 25%. Either way, it's clear. North America has bad Sichuan peppercorns.

 

If less than, let's say... 25 percent? of your peppercorns, have their seeds - there's no problem grinding them. It's hard to tell the difference in quality from 5% pits and 10% pits. It's when theirs an exorbitant amount of pits that the "gritty" texture comes about.

But if peppercorn producers aren't drying the peppercorns right, then there's probably a lot of other corners they're cutting. Often people attribute Sichuan peppercorns atrocious quality in the US to a ban on Sichuan peppercorns in America by the USDA. This is false.

 

The ban was lifted in 2005 with the caveat that they must be pasteurized at "140 degrees Fahrenheit or above for 10 minutes or longer" to kill off any citrus canker bacteria that may be present. So it goes, this "pasteurization" is what's causing the low-quality peppercorns in the US. But how does that explain the massive amount of stems? All of the seeds in the bag? And can heating peppercorns to 140f really cause the peppercorns to lose so much flavor? I don't think so personally. This is substantiated by Taylor Holiday, an exporter of high-quality Chinese ingredients.

 

"There is little discernible difference between those Sichuan peppercorns that had been heat-treated for export and those that hadn't... There's no excuse for the inferior, lowest-priced product, packaged years ago, sitting on US shelves besmirching Sichuan pepper's good name."

 

I think it's fair to say that the US is getting the worst of the worst exported to us. There must not be enough demand for quality Sichuan peppercorn. Most of the time, the quality doesn't matter. As long as your bag doesn't have massive amounts of seeds and stems, you'll be okay. You may need to add more peppercorn to get the same numbing hit. Though, If you genuinely care about good Sichuan peppercorns, I'd recommend picking them up from Épices de Cru or perhaps The Mala Market. The downside is they are pricey. Save the good quality ones on a dish where the mala flavor profile is being fully utilized. For example, if you're making kou shui ji, you should definitely use the good stuff. If you're just adding some Sichuan peppercorns to a red oil or to cut the gamey-ness of meat in a quick marinade, use the cheap ones. 

Edited by Burmese Days
typos (log)
  • Like 6
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 5 months later...

This post demystified szechuan peppercorns in short order. After the ban was lifted I bought a 100g bag and it tasted like dirt so I threw it out. Now that I know how to use them I'm game to get some more. Coincidentally, I learned what 'mala' was just this week. Psyched!

  • Like 1

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

Link to post
Share on other sites

I also get mine from Mala, and now that I'm a Patreon supporter of Chinese Cooking Demystified I get a little discount as well. Last order I got the regular but also the flowers. I haven't delved into the difference yet, but love them both. I'm using them on all sorts of random foods, including a vinegar ice cream, with the same process - lightly toast, grind, add, finish with some vinegar or acid element. I'm a bit addicted.

 

ETA: As if my computer were reading my posts, Mala market sent a marketing email just as I hit POST, with a new shipment of different chiles and peppercorns.

Edited by gfron1 (log)
  • Like 4
  • Haha 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

The biggest problem with Sichuan peppercorns outside south-western China is freshness. They quickly lose potency. I have surprised a number of European and North American visitors by serving them mala dishes using fresher peppercorns.

 

Even avowed Sichuan foodlovers have been astonished at the difference. They realise they've never really eaten them at their best.

 

Only buy in small quantities from a vendor with a high turnover. If they have been heat-treated, then game over - they are already dead.

 

As to ground Sichuan pepper, it isn't used that much, but when it is, it is ground 'to order'. That is, the home cook only grinds what they are going to use in the dish they are currently making. I've never seen anyone making a batch and storing it for later use.

 

Commercially ground peppercorns are worthless. Avoid.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
  • Like 4

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/17/2020 at 5:27 PM, gfron1 said:

Okay, what about these green szechuan peppercorns I found at the store recently?

 

I too find them more piney, but ALSO more citrusy - almost limey? The taste is very different - brighter, definitely more "top notes."

 

From what I've seen, eaten, and read, in Sichuan food they're used a lot with fish - such as shuizhuyu ("water boiled" fish) or another classic sichuanese dish, fish with sour cabbage soup, suancaiyu? (I don't speak Chinese except for menu terms and a few other things, so I may have the name wrong). I believe they're used a fair amount with chicken, too.

 

The red huajiao are still used for hot pot, water-boiled beef, mapodoufu, and many many other things!

 

As for storage - I'm using both green and red huajiao acquired from a spice vendor in a wet market in Chengdu in 2019. I'm not sure if it's the lack of irradiation or heat treatment, but I've just kept them in their own ziplocks, not airtight, and as of the mapodoufu I made last night, they are STILL a damn sight better and fresher than anything I can get from my local Chinese supermarket in the US. Which is just as well, seeing as apparently I was sold a "jin" of each, which is 500g, e.g. a lot!

 

I'm not sure what the deal with the Ma La Market ones is, and I've never tried them, but I'd be curious to know if they go through the same treatment that all the other stuff in the US gets. And if so, is it just that they're a much higher quality to begin with?

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Hassouni said:

apparently I was sold a "jin" of each, which is 500g, e.g. a lot!

 

 

Wow! They saw you coming!  A jin (500 grams) is a ludicrous amount to sell to anyone. I buy my peppercorns in 30 gram packs!

 

BTW, Mala Market states on their website that their peppercorns are not heat treated. That said, I also think their turnover might make for a better product.

 

酸菜鱼  (suān cài yú) is correct.

Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to post
Share on other sites

Talking of 酸菜鱼 - fish (usually grass carp) in pickled cabbage soup - the best I ever had was made with fresh (undried) green Sichuan peppercorns, but they are difficult to source, even here.

 

667804403_FreshSichuanPeppercorns.thumb.jpg.d7a09ea32e9e95427b9fc44048ec4642.jpg

 

They grow in southern Sichuan near the Yunnan border, but seldom travel far.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
  • Like 7

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...
  • Similar Content

    • By Dejah
      Re- thread on "favourite Chinese cookbook": There is much discussion on what is authentic, recipes that are not found in any of today's Chinese cookbooks. Muichoi suggested starting a collection in eGullet. This may be a way for all of us to start actually recording recipes that have been passed down through generations.
      Muichoi requested a recipe for dried bak choi soup. I am sure there are many "recipes" for this favourite. I can recount the different ingredients, but not the amounts - just a bunch of this, a few of those, etc.
      Start your engines, folks, and let's get posting!
    • By aroberts
      I went to chinatown in London today and came back with just a few items.
      A 1Kg packet of frozen mixed seafood.
      A squeezy bottle of hot chilli sauce
      Tin of Wasabi peas
      Bottle of Saki
      What do you always pick up from oriental food shops?
    • By infernooo
      Hi everyone!
      I am looking for recipes that you might consider as "home style" cooking that are common/popular in Shanghai (or around that area). Preferably things you grew up with that may or may not be widely known... I have a friend who was born and raised there and want to surprise them... (so asking them what their favourites or what they grew up eating is a NO-NO - they will see it coming a mile away).
      Any ideas?
      Thanks in advance!
    • By liuzhou
      Congratulations are due to Fuchsia Dunlop, whose "Food of Sichuan" has just been published in a Chinese language version - a rare honour here. I've ordered a couple of copies as gifts for local friends who loved the Engish version, but struggled with some language issues.
       

      《川菜》,
      中信出版社。
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      Chinese food must be among the most famous in the world. Yet, at the same time, the most misunderstood.

      I feel sure (hope) that most people here know that American-Chinese cuisine, British-Chinese cuisine, Indian-Chinese cuisine etc are, in huge ways, very different from Chinese-Chinese cuisine and each other. That's not what I want to discuss.

      Yet, every day I still come across utter nonsense on YouTube videos and Facebook about the "real" Chinese cuisine, even from ethnically Chinese people (who have often never been in China). Sorry YouTube "influencers", but sprinkling soy sauce or 5-spice powder on your cornflakes does not make them Chinese!
       
      So what is the "authentic" Chinese food? Well, like any question about China, there are several answers. It is not surprising that a country larger than western Europe should have more than one typical culinary style. Then, we must distinguish between what you may be served in a large hotel dining room, a small local restaurant, a street market stall or in a Chinese family's home.

      That said, in this topic, I want to attempt to debunk some of the more prevalent myths. Not trying to start World War III.

      When I moved to China from the UK 25 years ago, I had my preconceptions. They were all wrong. Sweet and sour pork with egg fried rice was reported to be the second favourite dish in Britain, and had, of course, to be preceded by a plate of prawn/shrimp crackers. All washed down with a lager or three.

      Yet, in that quarter of a century, I've seldom seen a prawn cracker. And egg fried rice is usually eaten as a quick dish on its own, not usually as an accompaniment to main courses. Every menu featured a starter of prawn/shrimp toast which I have never seen in mainland China - just once in Hong Kong.

      But first, one myth needs to be dispelled. The starving Chinese! When I was a child I was encouraged to eat the particularly nasty bits on the plate by being told that the starving Chinese would lap them up. My suggestion that we could post it to them never went down too well. At that time (the late fifties) there was indeed a terrible famine in China (almost entirely manmade (Maomade)).

      When I first arrived in China, it was after having lived in Soviet Russia and I expected to see the same long lines of people queuing up to buy nothing very much in particular. Instead, on my first visit to a market (in Hunan Province), I was confronted with a wider range of vegetables, seafood, meat and assorted unidentified frying objects than I have ever seen anywhere else. And it was so cheap I couldn't convert to UK pounds or any other useful currency.
       
      I'm going to start with some of the simpler issues - later it may get ugly!

      1. Chinese people eat everything with chopsticks.
       

       
      No, they don't! Most things, yes, but spoons are also commonly used in informal situations. I recently had lunch in a university canteen. It has various stations selling different items. I found myself by the fried rice stall and ordered some Yangzhou fried rice. Nearly all the students and faculty sitting near me were having the same.

      I was using my chopsticks to shovel the food in, when I noticed that I was the only one doing so. Everyone else was using spoons. On investigating, I was told that the lunch break is so short at only two-and-a-half hours that everyone wants to eat quickly and rush off for their compulsory siesta.
       
      I've also seen claims that people eat soup with chopsticks. Nonsense. While people use chopsticks to pick out choice morsels from the broth, they will drink the soup by lifting their bowl to their mouths like cups. They ain't dumb!

      Anyway, with that very mild beginning, I'll head off and think which on my long list will be next.

      Thanks to @KennethT for advice re American-Chinese food.
       
       
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...