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Mar 16, 2009 09:47 AM

Have you ever eaten something so highly spiced it altered the taste of plain water?!

We tried a new dish this weekend...Szechuan dry-fried beef with jalapenos. If I had to guess, the beef was dredged in flour seasoned with copious amounts of white pepper, then fried with jalapenos and bird's eye chili peppers. It wasn't even the heat of the dish that did was the pungency of what I think was the white pepper. It made my glass of water taste sour as though half a lemon was in it...but it was just plain water. This ever happen to you? The only thing I can liken it to is when you have a Hall's mentholyptus and then nothing tastes right after that. It was bizarre.

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  1. Yes, this weekend at a sichuan restaurant I had sliced conch with wild pepper sauce. After a few bites it had a salty bite to it. It made my water and my tea taste salty. I assume this was from the numbing peppercorns. This was the first time I had numbing without hot. It wore off by time our next dish came out.

    1 Reply
    1. And artichokes make anything you eat or drink after them taste sweet, including water.

      1. I think its called "wonder fruit", its a seed/nut/fruit(?) that when you eat it it makes all sour flavors taste sweet...the more sour the food, the sweeter it tastes to you! bizarre stuff....

        the closest Ive come to this is eating something that has a fair amount of chili oil in it, then about the time the sting of it starts to ebb, you take a drink of water(thusly, redistributing the oil around your mouth) and its hot all over again!

        Capsaicin does funny things to your taste buds! unlike bitter,sour,sweet,salt it fits into all your taste receptors, universally. What a voltage spike does for your lovely new Plasma screen, capsaicin does to your tongue. good times......

        1 Reply
        1. re: nkeane

          once when in the NYC, I was in a hurry and decided I would get some takeout then eat it at Dag plaza (I was a Wed. and I needed to get some vegetables from the farmers market) I was passing by a branch of Mee's and decied to get my food there I ordered salt an pepper squid pus a small lo mein. picked it up waked to Dag (about 2 blocks) sat down on one of the benchese and ate. the food was so so but no problems there. Thne i decide to take a swig of the bottle of Iced tea I had in my bag. The moment I took the sip I almost spat it out, it was so bitter. Thinking there might be sometihng wrong with that bottle I opened another one took a swig and the same thing happened I even went to a newsatad bough a different brand of tea, as well as a bottle of water and tried them, same thing happened. Needless to say I am NEVER getting food from that place again!

        2. A while back I picked up a take-out order of phad thai from my usual Thai restaurant, which I had had the "spicy" version of, many times. I was absolutely starving when I got home with it. After 3 bites, I was wishing beyond sour water. I wished I had a wrench that fit the fire hydrant outside. The restaurant goofed up just that once.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Veggo

            If you're saying the dish was too hot (chili-hot, that is), water is the wrong solution (pun intended), it just spreads the capsaicin oil around your mouth. You will kill the burning much faster by eating bread or plain rice, and even more effectively by eating plain yogurt or vanilla ice cream.

            A local restaurant that runs periodic "Hotter Than Hell" nights offers an emergency antidote (for a fee) to customers who have overdosed: a creamsicle.

            1. re: BobB

              Or milk, which is obviously similar to yogurt or ice cream. Years ago we saw Alton Brown do a show on hot peppers and he said the cure for your burning mouth was to drink a glass of milk. It works.

              And I had to laugh the other night when my 4 year old daughter took a mouthful of chinese food and it was rather spicy. She screamed "I need some milk!" and I thought to myself, has she been watching Good Eats?

              1. re: valerie

                It doesn't always work. And you don't have to DRINK the milk, Alton.

          2. Yes. My guess is that the dish contained a large amount of Szechuan pepper. Or, more accurately, the husks from around the pepper seeds, which is the part that is used and central to Szechuan cooking.

            The "pepper" actually a mountainous tiny fruit, not related to black pepper or chile pepper at all, but in the same plant family that the Citrus genus, which explains the sour and lemony flavors. As for that Hall's analogy, you are right on, as the numbing sensation that menthol and eucalyptus achieves is not too dissimilar from what Szechuan pepper does: it contains a strong hydroxy-alpha compound that creates tingling numbness in your mouth which can deaden your sensitivity and prepare you for a wallop of heat that often comes next, from proper chiles. Yes, all the rice, yogurt or milk in the world won't do much to dissipate that sensation, where it would with countering the capsiacin in hot chiles.

            4 Replies
            1. re: somedimsum

              somedimsum, thank you for the explanation. You described the sensation perfectly--in fact, I think we were so numb from the Szechuan pepper, the chili pepper heat didn't even register! The only thing that dissipated the sensation and taste was time...and eventually a trip to the bakery for an almond crescent just to have a new flavor in my mouth. :) My guy even got a cookie (for the same reason) and he rarely eats those!

              1. re: kattyeyes

                You are very welcome. Yes, it can be disconcerting in too large a dose. Szechuan pepper is also one of the ingredients in five spice powder, but in insufficient quantity to really render that mouth numbing sensation.

                These days, you can buy dried Szechuan pepper at just about any Asian market. It usually comes whole, and when using it, you must discard the round peppercorn-like seeds and only mash or grind the hulls. Combined with chiles, you get the "málå" or "numbing-hot" effect of Szechuan cuisine, the idea being that the numbing helps counter the intensity of the capsiacin in the chiles.

                As a final aside, the FDA banned the importation of the pods up until a few years ago, and some people mistakenly think that the reason was for a toxicity within the plant, which is not the case. At issue was the possible spread of a citrus canker that could have possibly infected the US citrus crop, which is no longer a worry.

                1. re: somedimsum

                  Really, I never knew I was supposed to discard the black bits. BTW for those who do Japanese cooking the sansho pepper used with some japanese fired foods is the same thing as szecuan pepper corns, both being the fruit of the prickly ash.

                2. re: kattyeyes

                  To me and quite a few others I have talked to, the Sichuan peppers can make plain water, or even tea, taste a bit carbonated after. I have a small jar from Penzey's. I toast them and crush them and use them to liven up otherwise dull take out.