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Sichuan Peppercorn


jhlurie
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I made the hot and sour soup, which was good and quite different from any I've had before (although I discovered that I quite like the taste of harsh distilled white vinegar in my hot and sour, and I'll sub that for the Chinkiang next time).

Then there were the dry sauteed string beans. We got some really nice skinny local string beans, and I tried Dunlop's shallow fry method. It worked fine and saved peanut oil, although it took forever. This dish is one of the best uses ground pork has ever found in my house (just behind potstickers). I don't know why I've never made it at home before. I intended to make the variation of this dish with shredded bitter melon and serve them both, but after frying the string beans for twenty minutes I was ready to eat.

Ah, and I made the red-braised pork. They sell nice pieces of pork belly at my local Asian market, and I cut them into chunks and braised for a couple of hours in soy sauce, brown sugar, and star anise. I ate some for breakfast over rice. For me, at least, it took some suspension of disbelief to enjoy this dish, since it involved eating large, silky hunks of pork fat. I have nothing against pork fat, and I'm sure the dish has less fat than ice cream--at least, this is what I told myself as I wolfed it down.

I'm hoping to cook just about everything in this book sooner or later. It's a marvel.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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For me, at least, it took some suspension of disbelief to enjoy this dish, since it involved eating large, silky hunks of pork fat.  I have nothing against pork fat, and I'm sure the dish has less fat than ice cream--at least, this is what I told myself as I wolfed it down.

Tell me about it. The first time I braved red braised pork belly (at Royal China) I was both delighted and slightly worried by how much I enjoyed the soft, richly flavoured lard. I keep telling myself that it's the same cut as streaky bacon, so it's not like it's something I haven't had before...

Since then I've been trying other ways to prepare pork belly, and this weekend I did the steamed-in-lotus-leaves recipe. (See the Dinner thread for the full menu.) It worked really well...again, the meat and fat were very soft and lightly flavoured with 5-spice, and the couscous truc gave a really pleasant, contrasting texture. It really highlighted the lack of extractor fan in my kitchen though, as steamed lotus leaves create quite a fug in a small space.

Dangerous stuff, this real Sichuan cookery. Totally addictive. :smile:

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I made the hot and sour soup, which was good and quite different from any I've had before (although I discovered that I quite like the taste of harsh distilled white vinegar in my hot and sour, and I'll sub that for the Chinkiang next time).

So did you use congealed duck's blood or did you go with pork blood for your soup? :laugh:

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  • 2 months later...

I love the mouth numbing effect of Sichuan peppercorns and the subtle flavor that adding even a small amount does for a chinese dish.

Do you have any favorite recipes that use it? Or favorite restaurants that make notable dishes featuring it?

My current fave (and Fat Guy's) in NYC is Grand Sichuan International Midtown's "freshly killed" Kung Pao Chicken. Which by the way, I would love to try to emulate at home.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I love the mouth numbing effect of Sichuan peppercorns and the subtle flavor that adding even a small amount does for a chinese dish.

Do you have any favorite recipes that use it? Or favorite restaurants that make notable dishes featuring it?

My current fave (and Fat Guy's) in NYC is Grand Sichuan International Midtown's "freshly killed" Kung Pao Chicken. Which by the way, I would love to try to emulate at home.

Jason,

I haven't eaten the Kung Pao fresh killed chicken at Grand Szechuan Int'l., but I can tell you one thing, that it must be the chef's highly personalized version or a revisionist version, because a classic Kung Pao sauce doesn't typically contain Szechuan peppercorn, sometimes also known as 'fagara'. The prototypical hot flavoring in Kung Pao sauce is from scortched dried red chiles. A spicy sauce that is flavored with Szechuan peppercorn will be hot from chiles also, either fresh, dried, infused into oil, or cooked into a spicy paste with or without beans (spicy chile paste wikt garlic or spicy hot bean paste). This type of sauce is named Ma (numb) La (spicy) sauce.

Many other classic Szechuan and Hunan recipes use Szechuan peppercorn. For example, in Szechuan Crispy Duck (not a hot spicy dish) the bird is marinated with salt and peppercorns before cooking. Classic recipes for Spicy Orange Chicken/Beef or Kwei Wei (unusually flavored) Chicken call for them as well. One of my favorite stir-fries is the Hunan dish, Tung-an Diced Chicken. It contains batons of red and greeen pepper and lots of coarsely shredded fresh ginger. It's flavored with a deeply burnished spicy brown sauce accented with Szechuan peppercorns and chile paste.

By the way, in recent months I have heard from friends in the business that the FDA has banned importation of Szechuan peppercorns. The story goes that they're concerned that certain individuals are allergic to it. I don't know about the veracity of this rumor nor have I tried to see if they're actually available through normal channels. I'd certainly be interested in feedback from anyone out there who can add to this story.

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I haven't eaten the Kung Pao fresh killed chicken at Grand Szechuan Int'l

Oh my god, Ed, this needs to be remedied immediately.

Steven Shaw's GSI Midtown Review (click) and Kung Pao Worship

Yeah, I would imagine it probably is their unique version. Its got a lot of sichuan peppercorns, dried sichuan chiles, and a TON of ginger in it. Its the essence of Sichuan food on a plate, in my humble opinion.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Jason we need to double-check on the Sichuan peppercorn content of the "freshly killed not long time refrigerated" kung pao chicken at Grand Sichuan. I don't have a clear memory one way or the other regarding their presence or absence.

Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've also seen the "essence" of Sichuan Peppercorn extracted into an oil and used as a condiment. At China 46 in Ridgefield (click), New Jersey (a top-notch Shanghainese restaurant where the NJ board had a gathering shortly after its review in the NYT) the chef cooks the pepper corns in oil (vegetable?) to extract and concentrate most of the flavor. This is then tossed with finished dishes such as their "spicy capsicum cellophane noodles" , a cold noodle dish of clear mungbean noodles mixed with shrimp, chicken and pork and cilantro, one of my favorites.

Apparently though, not all chinese people like this flavor.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I've also seen the "essence" of Sichuan Peppercorn extracted into an oil and used as a condiment. At China 46 in Ridgefield (click), New Jersey (a top-notch Shanghainese restaurant where the NJ board had a gathering shortly after its review in the NYT) the chef cooks the pepper corns in oil (vegetable?) to extract and concentrate most of the flavor. This is then tossed with finished dishes such as their "spicy capsicum cellophane noodles" , a cold noodle dish of clear mungbean noodles mixed with shrimp, chicken and pork and cilantro, one of my favorites.

Apparently though, not all chinese people like this flavor.

Are you sure this is Szechuan peppercorn oil and not chile oil. Is it red? (this is from Chiles not Sz pep). It could be both.

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No. Not chile oil. Its greenish yellow. In fact the owner of the restaurant and the chef explained us the technique and showed us the peppercorns he used. We've tasted this condiment straight and it gives you the WEIRDEST numbing sensation if you do. It makes your mouth feel like you've touched your toungue with the terminals of a 9V battery if you then immediately drink a glass of cold water following it.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Here's the basic Sichuan peppercorn oil procedure according to F&W:

http://www.foodandwine.com/invoke.cfm?obje...&method=display

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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No. Not chile oil. Its greenish yellow. In fact the owner of the restaurant and the chef explained us the technique and showed us the peppercorns he used. We've tasted this condiment straight and it gives you the WEIRDEST numbing sensation if you do. It makes your mouth feel like you've touched your toungue with the terminals of a 9V battery if you then immediately drink a glass of cold water following it.

jason's description, of both the color and the sensation, is right on. although, putting your tongue on a 9v battery really doesn't do much, does it?

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No. Not chile oil. Its greenish yellow. In fact the owner of the restaurant and the chef explained us the technique and showed us the peppercorns he used. We've tasted this condiment straight and it gives you the WEIRDEST numbing sensation if you do. It makes your mouth feel like you've touched your toungue with the terminals of a 9V battery if you then immediately drink a glass of cold water following it.

jason's description, of both the color and the sensation, is right on. although, putting your tongue on a 9v battery really doesn't do much, does it?

Try it.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I usually use grapeseed oil for Sichuan peppercorn oil. I add a bit of lime zest. I sometimes blend it with mirin and citus, emulsify it, and use it as a dipping sauce for crispy panko-crusted chicken thighs or sticky chicken wings. It also is interesting with rack of lamb.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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  • 1 month later...

Inspired by Mark Bittman's recent pressure cooker piece and my cold-weather soups and stews passion, I set out to make the Asian braised short ribs recipe that followed Mr. Bittman's article. I had everything on hand, save the star anise and whole Sichuan peppercorns. I picked up the anise from Fairway on Sunday night, but was unable to procure the whole peppercorns. No biggie, I figured I'd pick them up in downtown Flushing today after my re-organizational Day of Hell at the Board of Dread was over. I discovered the pronunciation, hua jiao, in my Asian Grocery Store Demystified book and set off with a teaching buddy to do my culinary errands.

No exaggeration: we went to SIX markets, pored through all of the shelves (I'm there all the time, familiar with everything) and could turn nothing up. All of the workers knew what "hua jiao" was and waved their fingers at us. They seemed downright surprised we were looking for this spice and attempted, on three occasions, to get us to buy Five Spice powder instead. No way. I was on a mission.

Finally in my fave fish store I asked the monger, a man I've known for fifteen years, why I couldn't find my peppercorns. He, in very broken, English seemed to be telling me that they were illegal. He must have seen the dismay in my eyes because much to my delight, he took me by the elbow, led me across the street and brought me to the small shop where I regularly buy nuts, loose teas,and strange herbs to make my skin more luminous :) A lot of Chinese, way too quickly spoken for this first year Mandarin student to decipher, was exchanged and next thing I know, my friend and I are being led to the back of the shop, past the curtain, to an elderly white-haired woman who clearly is not happy about this request and barrages us with a litnany of "WHYs."

I show her my freshly cut short ribs, the cilantro, mei-wei/ how-chur/yum-yum/ I rub my belly..smile...Shin nien kwai lau...many riches onto you during this Year of the Ram. I am my most charming, smiling, patting my belly. I want these coveted peppercorns big time NOW.

I've clearly made a good impression or maybe she just wants me out of her small space. The moment has arrived. She takes a big, big, big bag down from a shelf. I definitley do not want this many peppercorns, I think. God, I hope I don't insult her. I show her the desired amount with my hands. Too small, she tells me with her eyes and pours about a cupful into a plain brown bag and waves me out. I attempt to pay at the register. The older woman pushes my money away. She absolutley refuses the cash.

Very strange. Are these peppercorns illegal? Would the exchange of money have made it criminal? Have I watched too many movies? Was the twenty dollar bill I put forth too little, too insulting?

I check out the web when I get home and I see , on a few sites, that unroasted Sichuan peppercorns are, in fact, prohibited:

Notice: This product is currently under an import ban in the whole, unroasted form because of the citrus canker that infected the crop in Southeast Asia. We will not sell it whole as it must be ground and roasted at it's origin to satisfy US import regulations. Stay tuned for updates.

I'm curious as to whether Aphrodisia or Adrianna's Caravan sell these bloody things.

These ribs better be worth the trouble, considering I have contraband in the house, according to my paranoid lawyer husband.

Thanks for the adventure Mr. Bittman :)

Lisa

Edited by ZenFoodist (log)
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All treads merged. thanks.

You're welcome!

So back on topic. Any body find any updated info on this ban? I thought we'd concluded at one point that it was all nonsense.

EDIT - Okay, mamster thinks not. I should go back and read ALL of this thread. Citrus virus. Got it. What a crock. They're freaking FLOWER BUDS, aren't they? Is the plant they are buds from a citrus plant? I don't even know...

With respect to Jinmyo's noble efforts, grapeseed oil and lime zest wouldn't even come close to the sensation of Sichuan peppercorns.

Edited by jhlurie (log)

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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With respect to Jinmyo's noble efforts, grapeseed oil and lime zest wouldn't even come close to the sensation of Sichuan peppercorns.

I thought that Jin meant she combines the grapeseed oil with the peppercorns and lime zest.

Jin, I would love to try this (apparently there is no ban on them in Japan and have a nice bag of them) coulsd you be a little more specific with amounts and method for making?

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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It would be out of character if I didn't mention that it's a bacterium. The bacterium is called (this is not a joke) Xac. And yes, Sichuan peppercorns are in the citrus family.

The ban is on importing the whole peppercorns, so probably buying them on eBay from a domestic seller is legal, although I do like to feel like an outlaw. Anyone eaten at Grand Sichuan International lately? Are they still using them?

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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