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Sichuan Peppercorn how to choose?


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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?)

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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? 

 

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 🖕

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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.

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10 hours ago, gfron1 said:

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

 

Yeah, I guessed they were probably dried. I guess fresh ones aren't easy to find outside their native habitat. I'll try my dried ones later.

 

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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. 

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