Place to buy sichuan peppercorns in the Baltimore/DC area?
I've been looking to buy some sichuan peppercorns/chili in the Baltimore/DC area and haven't been able to find a single place. I went to the Han Ah Rheum in Catonsville and in Gaithersburg, and neither place had it. I went to the Grand Mart in Laurel, MD and on Gallows Rd in VA, and didn't have it either. Does anyone know where I can get it?
I'm not sure what you mean when you say "sichuan peppercorns/chili". Szechwan peppercorns aren't chile peppers.
Are you looking for Szechwan peppercorns, or for the small dried red chile peppers used in Szechwan cooking? I've gotten both at Asia Foods on York Road in Baltimore, but that's hardly the only source.
HAR and Grand Mart are not Chinese markets. Better bet would be Chinese markets like Maxim or Kam Sen in Rockville or Great Wall in Merrifield.
The best Szechwan peppercorns I've cooked with I've gotten were from Penzey's of all places. The ones obtained from the chinese stores have had very little flavor or potency. The penzey's peppercorns had my lips and gums buzzing the last time I made kung pao chicken.
Isn't it lucky I work with a person who grew up in the area between Sichuan and Hunan? We were discussing this very topic this morning ... she maintains that there are various varieties of the peppercorn, and not all of them are "ma". She says that to get the best ma flavor in food is to use the prepared oil -- and even then there are some brands that are superior to others. I asked her if I could infuse my own oil, and she insisted that the quality will be inferior to the commercially prepared oils. She said she will bring me her favorite brand, which is readily available in the market she frequents (she lives in Rockville).
You can get both good quality chinese red chilies and the "ma" peppercorns at Penzey's. There's a store somewhere in Rockville, too, by the way.