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Szechuan: all of the heat without the numbing effect?

I have a quandry when it comes to Szechuan cuisine, which is that I *love* the fiery hot chili-pepper element and the other flavors of these spicy dishes, but I just have not come to appreciate the numbing influence of the sichuan pepper. I have tried on numerous occasions to "get it", but it really has not improved for me - I just don't like it.

So my question is, can anyone recommend authentic Szechuan dishes that have all of the heat and complex flavors but lack the numbness? Alternately, is there a way to order dishes that are traditionally numbing with that aspect alone toned down? I have tried to broach the topic with our top-notch local establishement, but I wasn't able to get my point accross effectively.

I know to some this is an abominable question - my apologies in advance.

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  1. Instead of trying to find dishes that (1) don't have the numbing effect or (2) have a toned down numbing effect, I would suggest ordering other dishes that counterbalance the intrinsic spiciness of Sichuan cuisine.

    Try bitter melon -- either in soup or as a stir-fry. The bitterness of the melon acts as a natural "cooling agent" to the spiciness of the food.

    Also, try some of the braised dishes -- like pork and pork rump that are braised in a sweet, soy sauce concoction. One such dish is "Mao Tze-Dong Roast Pork".

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      "Mao Tze-Dong Roast (or braised) Pork" is a Hunan dish, not Sichuan. (Mao grew up in Hunan.) You'll often few a couple of Hunan dishes in Sichuan restaurants.

    2. There are a few dishes I've ordered at Szcechuan Gourmet (in NYC) that were spicy (kind of) but with no peppercorns -- braised fish with Szechuan chili miso, sauteed prawns with pork and asparagus, double cooked sliced pork belly with leeks, braised fish filets with tofu. I mention the specific restaurant because I'm not sure if there are variations with the restaurants out there.

      One thing is Mabo tofu in an authentic Szechuan resturant has peppercorns. In a non-Szechuan place -- it depends.

      1. When I lived with a girl from Sichuan, she cooked the peppercorns in hot oil with aromatics, took them out, then continued the dish. She said that they were there to flavor, not be eaten. If she didn't get all of them out, she would leave them on the rim of her plate as though they were bones. They still leave a bit of the numbing sensation, anyway.

        1. You could try saying, "Bu Tai Ma" - (not too numbing).

          1 Reply
          1. re: trentyzan

            Excellent - I will try that next time. Here's hoping I get the pronunciation right (with my luck, it will come out as, "I'd like live eels with that" ;-)

            thanks!

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