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Sichuan Peppercorn


jhlurie
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Could someone... I don't know... suggest this to the stupid FDA...

Nah. It's obviously less work for the bureaucrats (and more make-work for the enforcement branches) if they simply ban it.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Sichuan pepper cannot really be called "fiery", but it has an unusual "tickling" pungency, which gives way to a characteristic "numb" sensation (ma in Chinese). Thus, sichuan pepper cannot be used to prepare "hot" food. The only other spices with a similar anaestethic power are Tasmanian pepper, which additionally can provide true peppery heat, paracress, and, to a lesser extent, water pepper leaves. Water pepper seeds have a much increased pungency, and it is remarkable that this spice is not used traditionally in the cooking of any country, despite its easy availability and large distribution in Eurasia. See also negro pepper for a more detailled discussion of hot spices.

:smile:

It is interesting that they say that water pepper leaves aren't used traditionally in any Asian cuisine, because they are in Japan. From the daily nihongo thread:

word for 7/19:

g‚½‚Å@@@‚ׂɂ½‚Å

beni tade (beh-nee-tah-day)

Tiny purple leaves from the water pepper plant, they have a peppery flavor and are a common garnish with sashimi and tofu as well. They look like miniature, purple versions of kaiware.

picture:

http://www.toshin.co.jp/cook/99_12/hotate/#3

We also have tade-su, a vinegar made from the water pepper leaves that is quite popular.

I have been curious about this lack of import ban in Japan because they ban everything:angry: and the only information I could find on the Japanese web is about the ban in the US! I just checked the package I bought here in Japan and it lists China as place or origin............

hhhmmmmm............. :blink:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I know I said "irradiate it" like that was a simple thing. It is not that simple. The easiest part is the equipment and that is very expensive. I suspect (but don't know) that only the big houses like McCormicks would have such a thing. They are using it to knock down bacterial counts that the FDA monitors on imports. (FDA has jurisdiction over imported foods.) But then it is the USDA that is charged with protecting crops, aided and abetted by the Customs Service. I think we have now been through 3 cabinet level organizations. Then a test would have to be devised to assure that the irradiation method destroys all of those organisms. Then you have to get all of those agencies to agree on the test then go about certifying the facilities to do the irradiation. Are those facilities at the port of entry? Can the pepper be transported safely to the facility? More tests. Sorry, but I have oversimplified here in the name of brevity.

Now after all of that, the importer that is immersed in this swamp has to justify the headache. I doubt that there is enough of a market for these obscure (at least to most in this country) peppercorns. It is a lot easier to just take the easy way out and ban them.

You can bet that the story would be different if this was common black pepper or cinnamon.

Edit to add:

More than you probably want to know

There is all kinds of stuff if you google: irradiation AND spices

Edited by fifi (log)

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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according to my mom, toasting and grinding doesn't really do much damage to flavor and numbing effect. so we should be okay. we'll just see if the chinese (or other sources) will sell it like that. i would think though, that it would lose some of its integrity over time like other ground spices.

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Yeah, I'm trying to source Tasmanian pepper but to no avail.

Is this the same as Australian bush pepper?

Inspired by this thread I went and scored some Szechuan peppercorns from the Spice shop just off Portobello road in London; I tasted a bit of the pepper with the owner (I guess?) and we agreed about the numbing effect. He then recommended this "Australian bush pepper" which is a ground up leaf and has a delayed burn. But I didn't get any.

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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.
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.

BTW, to correct eatingwitheddie (and beleive me, I hesitate to do so, because he probably knows more about Cantonese cooking on this site than anyone), Fuchsia's recipe for Kung Pao which originates from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, contains a good amount of Sichuan Peppercorns in addition to an ample amount of the dried red chiles. So GSI's version is the "authentic" one, every other one in NY that doesn't have it is just the dumbed down American Chinese version.

As to how the hell GSI is getting all this Sichuan Pepper is another matter entirely.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

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

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how badly does grinding it, roasting it and preserving it in that form ruin it?

When I first started looking for these guys, about four years ago, I did find an imported jar of ground, roasted peppercorns. It was nothing like what I make at home now, roasting and grinding my own. This homemade ground pepper, as alanamoana said, holds up pretty well. But that storebought stuff wasn't very nice at all. Very finely ground (powdery) and insipid in scent and flavor.

But you can't even get that these days, can you? Does anyone have a source for the "roasted and ground in China" variety?

Everyone knows where this is going, right?

The "egullet © Underground Sichuan Peppercorn Railroad."

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A quick note on Sichuan grinding and roasting peppercorns:

The roasting brings out an amazing fragrance, but the powder loses this rather quickly. If you are really serious about it you should grind and roast the husks on the day you wish to use them; but (realistically) you can put the powder into an airtight jar for a week or so and it'll still be usable, though you'll notice the fragrance dulling down.

I should imagine that bought ground, roasted Sichuan pepper is not worth using.

As for the peppercorns themselves, the fresher the better. By the time the new year's crop is out you will want to chuck out last year's if you can...

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Welcome eo eG, fiore!

Does anyone (Jinmyo?) know if Sichuan peppercorns are also banned in Canada? Wouldn't think so, not much citrus industry to protect.

If they're still available OTC in Canada, I'll have to try to remember to get some on my next trip to Vancouver (which, sadly, isn't all that often).

I do have some Sichuan peppercorns, but they're several years old (pre-ban), and a mere shadow of their former selves.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi all,

I recently purchased Fuchsia Dunlop's "Land of Plenty" and am anxious to begin cooking from it. But many of her recipes call for sichuan chilis, which I have been thus far unable to find. I live close to Toronto's Chinatown but haven't seen any chilis labelled "sichuan"--do they come under some other descriptions? Perhaps there is some Mexican chili that I could substitute?--what would be most similar in flavour/heat?

Thanks for any help.

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i'm definitely no expert, but looking at some of the recipes here, and being a bit familiar with the dishes, i'm guessing they're those red dried chilipeppers, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch long? seems that you won't be eating them, but rather they'll add to the flavor of the dish, so it might not matter too too much, except for possible smokiness i suppose.

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What tommy said, though I've also seen them as long as 2 inches. I would imagine thai hots could be substituted.

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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The ones I remember from Sichuan are short (an inch or two long) and sort of boxy. I don't think they are as hot as the most incendiary mexican or thai chillis (in Dunlops book she cautions against using too hot ones as a substitute)

As I said they're boxy - ie not like the little narrow ones which are just a sliver of flesh seed. Theres a memorable chicken dish where they deep fry a massive wokfull of the chillis with a few scraps of chopped chicken leg and thigh, still on the bone. You then pick out the chicken bits, which have absorbed lots of chilli flavour, and leave all the chillis!

cheerio

J

ps the live shrimp as kinda fun too - doused in rice wine and chilli. point is to bite down before they start wriggling ;-)

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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I have her book Sichuan Cookery and she calls for them all through out there as well. Judging by the pictures in the book they are squat and boxy looking. I have yet to find them in Yokohama's China town as well and a Chinese friend was going to try and pick up some up for me on her trip to Hong Kong last spring, however SARS postpond her trip and I am still waiting..... :sad:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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You can use almost any type of chile in your Chinese (Sichuan) cooking.

In the US when we cook with dried chiles we typically use red chiles that are about 2" long - they are inexpensive and easily found in Chinese markets. They often come from Thailand. It's no problem figuring out which ones are the 'right' ones, because typically they are the only dried chiles sold. Grind some in a spice grinder and heat them in some vegetable oil until they just start to smoke, then cool and strain the oil: you'll have chile infused 'hot oil' (la yu).

In Sichuan cooking these dried chiles are often scortched until mahogany colored as the first step in making a Kung Pao sauce. This scortching gives the chiles, and the dish they flavor, a characteristic nuttiness and smell.

When making a spicy Sichuan dish such as diced chicken with fresh chiles, 'La Tse Gee Ding', almost any variety will work. It just depends on what flavor and level of spiciness you are trying to create.

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jawbone,

What you are looking for is the variety of pepper called tien tsin.

You can order them from Penzeys Spices.

Look here for more sources and information.

:smile:

Tien Tsin chilis, as the name implies, are from Tianjin province, which happens to be quite far from Sichuan. But I don't think it really matters. Any dried red pepper with a high degree or heat will probably do. For appearance's sake (in some dishes), they should be around an inch long or less when dried. I'm sure there are dried red chilis in Toronto's Chinatown, since there are some well-stocked Chinese markets there. It's a far different matter if Fuchsia calls for Sichuan peppercorns (a.k.a. Fagara) since these cannot be legally imported into the US and there is no real substitute.

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jawbone,

What you are looking for is the variety of pepper called tien tsin.

You can order them from Penzeys Spices.

Look here for more sources and information.

:smile:

Tien Tsin chilis, as the name implies, are from Tianjin province, which happens to be quite far from Sichuan. But I don't think it really matters. Any dried red pepper with a high degree or heat will probably do. For appearance's sake (in some dishes), they should be around an inch long or less when dried. I'm sure there are dried red chilis in Toronto's Chinatown, since there are some well-stocked Chinese markets there. It's a far different matter if Fuchsia calls for Sichuan peppercorns (a.k.a. Fagara) since these cannot be legally imported into the US and there is no real substitute.

I think he should be looking for Szechwan peppercorns. These can be hard to find sometimes, the Chinese name is "Fa jou" I don't know if this is the right spelling but it sounds right. :shock:

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Tien tsin are used in Szechuan and Thai cooking.

EDIT: HTML removed. Please don't post HTML, it usually screws up everyone else's browser except yours.

In Central China (Sichuan and the more Eastern Hu-nan province), however, chillies and garlic are very popular and used in astonishing amounts. Dried red chillies are often fried in hot oil until dark brown, the oil then being used to prepare stir-fries (see ginger for an example). The local tien tsin chillie is particularily suited for this high-temperature procedure. The best qualities of tien tsin have a pretty high staining capability and can be used to prepare a deep red chillie oil, either based on bland vegetable oil or on dark Chinese sesame oil. In either case, the crushed chillie is mixed with warm, not hot, oil and macerated for a few weeks. This chillie oil is a perfect last-minute condiment; it is applied dropwise before serving or individually at the table.

tsien-tsien.jpg

Chinese tien tsin chillie

Another method of applying chillies is the usage of doubanjiang (hot bean paste), a fiery paste prepared from chillies, garlic and soy beans by fermentation; it is most typical for Sichuan cookery. Doubanjiang is meant to be eaten after boiling of frying only and must therfore not be confused with soy-free chillie pastes in the manner of Indonesian sambal, which may be enjoyed both raw and cooked.

A well-known example of Sichuan cookery is mapo tofu, spicy minced pork with bean cheese. For this dish, the pork is stir-fried together with doubanjiang and garlic and then combined with mild, soft bean cheese. Toasted sichuan pepper capsules and a hint of sesame oil provide additional flavour.

From Chillis!

:smile:

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Thanks for all the help. I do have sichuan peppercorns. I guess I will just poke about more carefully in Chinatown--or try to find an acceptable substitute. The chiles in the photos in her book don't look like the tien sien and are instead short, boxy (as tommy and Jon describe) and have a smooth thin skin. I imagine the trick will be to find a chile that when used in the copious amounts called for lends plenty of chili flavour and quite a bit of heat but without the incendiary burn that using an equivalent amount of Thai bird chiles would cause (I also really like the way the sichuan chiles look in dishes like kung pao). If I was to substitute a Mexican chile (when size/shape isn't a factor--making chile oil, for example) does anyone have an idea of what heat level (in scoville units) I should be shooting for?

Edited by jawbone (log)
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I'd use Arbols.

I think the Scoville range is around 20k+...a little hotter than serranos.

I think they would suit your needs both heatwise and size comparison wise.

...I thought I had an appetite for destruction but all I wanted was a club sandwich.

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