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Sichuan Peppercorn


jhlurie
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Jawbone,

Any Chinatown or Asian grocery should have packages of crushed red chili which would be the same thing as the whole form. I haven't found an Asian grocery that didn't carry them and I'm in the midwest, far away from any coast or Chinatown.

I don't think Arbols would be hot enough (relatively speaking):

Pepper - Scoville Units

Habanero - 300,000

Piquin - 140,000

Tien Tsin - 60,000

Dundicut - 60,000

Jalape–o - 55,000

Sanaam - 40,000

Cayenne - 40,000

Crushed Red (Pakistan) - 40,000

Arbol - 35,000

Crushed Red (California) - 20,000

Ground Hot Red - 20,000

Chipotle Pepper - 15,000

Ancho Pepper - 3,000

Since all green peppers eventually turn red (except for one evergreen cultivar), it is possible to substitute red jalapenos...

:smile:

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I just noticed the post on szechuan chilis, and I am having the same problem finding szechuan peppercorns. I can't find them anywhere. I see pink, red, black, green, but cannot find szechaun ones. I have been to Chinatown and places like Dean and Deluca, but have not seen it anywhere. Any suggestions?

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(slight digression)

was speaking to Josh about the chillis that can be used for a cucumber salad and he pointed me to this link of the different varieties of chillis.

the pictures shown looks like the medusa strain which is found in malaysia, i think. based on my observation. note that medusa is not cheyenne which has a slight sourish taste to it.

worst come to worst, use the dried chilli found in chinatown but be careful when u add them into the dishes if u've never had them before.

if u wanted to grow ur own hot chillis, just buy some dried chillis, remove the seeds and plant them. i know my granny does. :biggrin:

hmm... as for jalapenos, taste might come out different but no harm trying. jalapenos has a different sour taste to it.

and yes, spicy szechuan taufu is another way of making the dish spicy but u'll get a fermented taste to it. depends whether u like it this way or not.

most chinese restaurants in malaysia either uses dried chilli or chilli oil because it's cheaper and it's hard to get the same chilli strain as in szechuan. i'm probably not eating the correct szechuan dishes but beggars can't be choosers. :laugh:

good luck on the cooking!

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I just noticed the post on szechuan chilis, and I am having the same problem finding szechuan peppercorns.  I can't find them anywhere.  I see pink, red, black, green, but cannot find szechaun ones.  I have been to Chinatown and places like Dean and Deluca, but have not seen it anywhere.  Any suggestions?

Read up-topic a bit cwyc. At least if you live in the U.S. (not a default assumption here on eGullet), they are illegal for import. If you DO find them, don't post where here, otherwise armed agents of the USDA and DOA will swoop down from black helicopters, repel down on teflon ropes and arrest you.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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This website:

click here for UK Chile Head site

offered a little further info (from the Szechuan entry):

Szechuan: Not introduced to China until the sixteenth century. A number of chiles now grow there, including Ngau kok tsiu (a type of De Arbol), Fan Chiew tsiu (a Dutch type), Tse tin tsiu (a Mirasol type). The hottest, which is simply called Szechuan in the West, is probably a Cayenne type. In China it is called Tsim tuk laat tsiu or Rajiano. It is pungent and grows between 5-10 cm in length and 6 mm-1.25 cm wide. Heat level is 8.

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

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If the tse tin tsiu really is a mirasol, then that's the one. Mira sol = look at (the) sun. They're a bitch to grow in places that don't stay really hot at night. My scotch bonnets and long red cayennes did great this summer in Portland, but none of the sky facing chillies survived and I had them in a southern exposure next to a concrete wall. It still got too cold for them at night, I think they need at least 60 F. We were totally bummed about that, since it's hard to find any of this sort but the smaller Thai ones which don't work for certain applications.

regards,

trillium

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trillium,

There should be plenty of places for you to find the Tien Tsin chilis for purchase either in dried or crushed form from the many Ethnic groceries around you.

:)

Yeah, they're here in the shops but they're not very fragrant...the quality really sucks... I've mail ordered them in the past, but I was hoping to grow my own! Thanks though.

regards,

trillium

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I just scored a very short ounce, for two bucks, of what appears to be--thanks Wena for the link--the genuine article. I bought it from the grocer that told me six months ago his inventory was confiscated. When questioned he insisted the ban had been lifted. :hmmm:

This stuff looks nasty. Lots of husks, stems, twigs and a few small buds in the mix. Sorta like what's leftover after cleaning a ¼lb. of primo Columbian. Nice reddish-brown color though.

Of course I immediately put some into my mouth, hoping for that 9v battery experience. Unfortunately nothing happened. In fact it tasted like yard refuse.

Is the prep I've read of--heating in a pan until smoking and adding salt--essential to the experience or have I been beat once more?

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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You be swindled. You should IMMEDIATELY have that 9v battery on the tongue effect.

It usually gets my lips before my tongue. And its less a 9V battery feel than it is somehow a kind of a combination of a slight numbness and a slight tingle at the same moment.

And don't forget the fact that your water tastes funny for a few sips afterwards.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Is the prep I've read of--heating in a pan until smoking and adding salt--essential to the experience?

Pan toast the peppercorns for a minute in a dry pan - until they're fragrant and start to smoke - don't let them burn. Let them cool slightly, then grind, strain and mix 1/4 - 1/2 t of the powder into a stir-fry seasoning sauce. You may mix the Sichuan peppercorn powder with salt to make a dip, however the salt has nothing whatsoever to do with bringing out the numb (tingling)/spicy quality. I grind my peppercorns in a Japanese grinding bowl using my cleaver handle as a pestle. A mortar works fine - and in a pinch I wouldn't hesitate to flatten them on a cutting board with the side of my cleaver then chop and strain them.

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Regarding substitutions, use the shorter thinner dried Thai chilies only if you must. The flavor is not at all the same as the Sichuan (larger, boxier) peppers ..... you'll see the difference if you roast and grind the chilies and use for lajiao (hot chili oil --- Dunlop has the procedure, I think).

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You be swindled.

I still think I bought the genuine article. Old and useless, but genuine. :angry:

Toasting the suspect product in a pan produced a not unpleasant aroma, but not one you would write home about. Tasting an eighth-teaspoon on the tongue of the ground powder after said toasting and a trip through the M&P was disappointing to say the least. No tingle. No spicy flavor. It tasted like dirt instead of yard refuse.

So, my current opinion--like others here--is not only is this stuff nearly impossible to obtain in the USA, but also worthless if it's not very fresh.

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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My 7 packets of Sichuan Peppercorns were waved through customs at Los Angeles airport a couple of weeks ago. I even declared them as such on my quarantine form. (True, true, true).

There's definitely something screwy going on.

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Toasting the suspect product in a pan produced a not unpleasant aroma, but not one you would write home about. Tasting an eighth-teaspoon on the tongue of the ground powder after said toasting and  a trip through the M&P was disappointing to say the least. No tingle. No spicy flavor. It tasted like dirt instead of yard refuse.

So, my current opinion--like others here--is not only is this stuff nearly impossible to obtain in the USA,  but also worthless if it's not very fresh.

PJ

Nothing like fresh spices (food) - but that being said I have always found that older Sichuan peppercorns (1 year or more) do quite nicely after proper toasting. I suspect the 'ma la' quality (numb spicy) is more pronouned from oil infusion. The smell however is easy to capture. Try letting your toasted and ground peppercorns sit in a stir-fry sauce for a while before cooking with it, or alternatively grind them and infuse them into some veg oil and cook with it. By the way 1/8t is a very small amount which will only be mildly noticeable.

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Thanks for the info Ed.

I found a quick and easy recipe for Spicy Sweet and Sour Cabbage in Virginia Lee's "The Chinese Cookbook" that uses the hot oil infusion of the peppercorns and tried it tonight. It uses about a tablespoon of unground peppercorns in a 1/3 cup of oil. For one thing the fragrance of the peppercorns in the oil beats the dry pan method hands down. While the dish was still cooling--it's a room temp or cold one--early tastings of the final product produced the "ma la" effect. It was not immediate though, it took a few minutes to develop fully. To me it's a vague front of the mouth tingle/numbness.

One thing I've noticed in my rooting around: In her book Fuchia Dunlop insists on only using the freshest peppercorns, claims they deteriorate fast, and usually specifies about 1 tsp. in her recipes.

On the other hand Virginia Lee in her book writes that the peppercorns will "keep indefinitely in a tightly sealed container." Her recipes usually call for a tablespoon's worth.

My new conclusion is, the older they are the more of them you need to use! :laugh:

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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Thanks for the info Ed.

I found a quick and easy recipe for Spicy Sweet and Sour Cabbage in Virginia Lee's "The Chinese Cookbook" that uses the hot oil infusion of the peppercorns and tried it tonight. It uses about a tablespoon of unground peppercorns in a 1/3 cup of oil. For one thing the fragrance of the peppercorns in the oil beats the dry pan method hands down. While the dish was still cooling--it's a room temp or cold one--early tastings of the final product produced the "ma la" effect. It was not immediate though, it took a few minutes to develop fully. To me it's a vague front of the mouth tingle/numbness.

One thing I've noticed in my rooting around: In her book Fuchia Dunlop insists on only using the freshest peppercorns, claims they deteriorate fast, and usually specifies about 1 tsp. in her recipes.

On the other hand Virginia Lee in her book writes that the peppercorns will "keep indefinitely in a tightly sealed container." Her recipes usually call for a tablespoon's worth.

My new conclusion is, the older they are the more of them you need to use!  :laugh:

PJ

I'd believe Virginia Lee over almost anyone! The lady really knew her stuff!

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I was in the Spice House yesterday and the manager told me that they may never have Sichuan peppercorns again. According to him, there is a citrus virus that is not a danger to humans, but could threaten the citrus crop. He said that irradiation will not destroy the offending virus.

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