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Sep 12, 2008 12:32 PM

Buying Sichuan Chilies in the Bay Area

HI All,
Does anyone know where I might be able to buy some of the chilies traditionally used in Sichuan cooking? We went to Chengdu last year and took some cooking classes there. Amazing experience. We brought back as many pickled and dried chillies as we could stuff in our suitcase, but haven't be able to locate any since then.

In particular, I'm looking for 'Facing Heaven Chilis' chao tian jiao [朝天椒] (copied from post here - thanks for the characters!) -- dried and pickled. We've been able to buy the peppercorns, no problem.

I've tried May Way and all the shops on Clement Street, Ranch 99, many of the shops in SF Chinatown, and Sunset Super, but still am not having any luck.

Would appreciate your thoughts!

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  1. I go to Universe at the produce terminal for fresh ones.

    4 Replies
    1. re: intomeat

      I've been hoping to buy Sichuan chiles, too. I brought some back from China last year but haven't found a local source.

      I checked the produce terminal website. Can you say more about Universe's hours and whether it's open to the public? Do they always have facing-heaven chiles, or only occasionally?

      1. re: david kaplan

        Universe sells produce in bulk, but they do sell some produce by the pound. I usually go after 10. They star to close up after 11, gates locked by noon for sure. Their chilies are fresh and damn hot! BTW, they have exotic produce from the fareast that I've never seen before, nor can name! The proprietor speaks Chinese, but I'm not sure which dialect.

      2. re: intomeat

        I went today for the first time to buy Sichuan chiles from Universe and discovered that Universe shut down a few weeks ago. I walked around a bit, asking who would be most likely to have heaven-facing chiles (with the Chinese characters printed so I could show it), and no one had even heard of them. Struck out!

        So the question becomes fresh again: where, other than Universe, can one buy Sichuan chiles in the Bay Area?

        1. re: david kaplan

          Bummer, I guess Roger finally decided to retire for real ... what a lost for us.

      3. Info for Universe Produce Co. (mentioned by posters above)

        Contact: Roger Woo, Raymond Lam
        Phone: 415-285-3818
        Fax: 415-550-0368

        San Francisco Wholesale Produce
        2095 Jerrold Ave # 212, San Francisco, CA

        2 Replies
        1. re: Xiao Yang

          According to, 朝天椒 is frutescens L. var. conoides Bailey, a.k.a. cone pepper. FWIW, cone pepper is commonly used in pepper spray ;-)

          1. re: Xiao Yang

            Thanks for all the thoughts. I'll definitely check out Universe Produce! I'm hoping I can pickle some of own.

        2. I often eat at CHUNG KING in San Gabriel. It's, by far, the best Sichuan restaurant in SoCal, in fact, I had lunch there today. Sometimes, outside, I see chilies drying under the hot valley sun, and believe me, they use A LOT of chilies in their recipes.

          I've never asked where they get their chilies from, but here's the phone number for them, perhaps, they can advise you about someplace down here: 626-286-0298.