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Sichuan dried chilies and pickled chilies

I've been cooking out of Fuchsia Dunlop's book, and she often requires Sichuan dried red chilies, as well as pickled chilies. Ranch 99 has nothing of the sort.

Any sightings of Sichuan chilies at Bay Area chinese supermarkets? Any markets with an especially good selection of Sichuan ingredients - ideally East Bay or SF?


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  1. I've been conducting the same search myself - no luck so far.

    Since Dunlop describes the chilies as not as hot as the dried (long and thin) thai chilies that are everywhere I've been mixing those with some very mild dried mexican chillies. So far I've been reasonably happy with the results.

    I don't know if it's particularly good for Sichuan supplies but I've found everything else I've needed in New May Wah (on Clement in the Richmond district of San Francisco). In particular, the spice called "fake cardamom" in Dunlop's book appears to be in the spice section but labeled as "cardamom" (reminds me of so many experiences in China...).

    Sichuan peppercorns are available lots of places but I've been buying mine in the Rainbow grocery spice section.

    1. I suspect this is the British term used for the dried chilies you find all over asian stores.

      1 Reply
      1. re: celeryroot

        No...I used to have some dried Facing Heaven chiles from Sichuan, which are chunky little guys as opposed to the thin ones you get in the Asian stores. That being said, the dried ones more commonly found here in Asian markets seem to work fine. (Sadly, I would avoid the very affordable dried peppers found in the Mission. They tend to lend a slightly tex-mex smoky spin which doesn't work for me in Sichuan cooking.)

        As for the pickled chiles, I have tried a couple of things which seem to work ok.
        1) Like boris_qd, I've used pickled thai chilis (use less, and remove the seeds, since they are very hot. Maybe toss in a spoonful of the pickling juices.
        2) At 99Ranch there's a brand with a mug shot of a chinese woman--one of the bottles on offer says something like "pickled chili soybean" in English. The sauce is orange and appears to consist mostly of seeds.
        3) Make your own salted pickled chiles according to recipe in Dunlop's second book. (Wear gloves!) Don't know how authentic it is, but I love this stuff.

      2. I've never seen the right dried chiles here and I'm constantly going to dried goods shops that have products that pop up and then disappear for months or forever. Recently I saw some bright red chiles that were fatter than the usual skinny arbol chiles at an herb shop in Oakland Chinatown but I wasn't impressed enough to buy.

        Try Thai pickled chiles as a substitute, be sure to read the ingredients and avoid any product with vinegar.

        Sichuan Pixian broad bean chile sauce is hard to find. It shows up every now and then. In the past year I bought a kilo plastic bag of it at a 99 and saw the same brand at a Lion around the same time so a big shipment must have cleared customs. The imitations from Lee Kum Kee or Taiwanese companies don't compare.

        8 Replies
        1. re: PorkButt

          "Try Thai pickled chiles as a substitute, be sure to read the ingredients and avoid any product with vinegar."

          Curious as to why you say avoid vinegar packed chiles.

          1. re: toitoi

            For the same reason why brine cured (cucumber) pickles are better than pickles made using vinegar. The lactic acid tang from fermentation in a salt brine is very different and, I think, far superior than pickling with vinegar.

            1. re: PorkButt

              Thanks, I was in a pickle about that - lol

              Never have liked pickles in vinegar, except cornichons. I've never looked carefully at the chilies liquid, I will from now on.

              1. re: PorkButt

                I think it depends on the type of "pickle". For instance I make beets in vinegar & spices that are quite tasty, but find cucumbers and cabbage (sauerkraut) made with vinegar unsatisfying.

                What is the correct method for Sichuan peppers - are the cured in vinegar or with salt and a (naturally occurring?) lactic acid bacteria?

                1. re: boris_qd

                  Just salt (and water for some versions).

                  1. re: PorkButt

                    According to Dunlop's book it's salt, sugar, wine and other spices. She warns against using the Thai pickles and others that have vinegar.

                    1. re: boris_qd

                      I think I'm going to make fermented chilies with wine, sugar, and salt. Seems like the nicest way to have these chilies. Won't have the original chilies, of course, but will use red cayenne the next time i can nab them.

                      1. re: mielemaiale

                        Did you want them whole? I seem to remember seeing chopped pickled chilis elsewhere in the sauce/condiment aisle. I am not sure I saw whole ones. It's very irregular, the arrangement there. The chili sauces are just a mess, all over the place.

          2. You can buy dried Hunan Chilies which I believe are the same as Sichuan Chilies from www.pacgourmet.com Pacific Gourmet Inc.1060 Marin Street,San Francisco, CA 94124
            Phone: 415.641.8400.
            I have been using them to make hot oil and other Sichuan preparations for a few years now and had very good results.

            5 Replies
            1. re: chefj

              That's a great find. I spent a long morning a while ago checking with most of the Asian-focused produce wholesalers and had no luck finding Sichuan chilies. If you happen to have some on had, would you mind posting a photo?

              I brought back some from China a couple of years ago and was blown away by their fragrance; at the same time they're much less spicy then lots of other dried chilies. I haven't found any close substitute in the U.S. so I'm delighted to hear you've got a source.

              1. re: david kaplan

                I have them at work. I will snap a photo and post it in a couple of days.
                As for the 75$ minimum, they have lots of other good stuff and if you know someone in the business that takes care of the wholesale bit.

              2. re: chefj

                Might add that when following chefj's lead to Pacific Gourmet's web site I noticed that they are wholesale only with minimum order of $75. That is one big pile of Hunan chiles.

                1. re: alfairfax

                  Maybe some of us chowhounders want to band together and make a bulk order. I imagine they keep well.

                  1. re: boris_qd

                    I'm in. I'm not sure the appropriate way to organize this through Chowhound, but please email me at davidkaplan2323 at yahoo dot com if you are interested in banding together for a bulk order or if you are in the business and could help us make a purchase from a wholesaler (even if you're not interested in chilies themselves).

              3. Also a Fuchsia Dunlop fan, I found dried Sichuan peppers at Ranch 99 in Richmond. In a small (100g) bag with red band at top and Chinese characters printed on it. A white label said only "Dried Chili" but listed a Chengdu manufacturer. They are not as bright red as Fuchsia described, being more dull red, but are about 1&1/2 inches long, round and pear-shaped. I did not find the pickled chili but will keep looking,

                15 Replies
                1. re: alfairfax

                  Similar response to chefj -- would you mind posting a photo of the bag with the Chinese characters? I'd love to print it out and show it to people in stores when asking for the same product.

                  The Sichuan chilies I saw in China were also a dull red, kind of a brick red.

                  1. re: david kaplan

                    I have never uploaded photos to C'hounds before but have take a few of the bag of Sichuan dried chiles and will give it a tech-impaired try. I did find a logo and some English characters which read, if you can't get large-enuf image: Chuan lan hui. I love the image with it which appears to be a man in profile smoking a Sherlock Holmes type of pipe. There must be a story there all right.

                    1. re: alfairfax

                      OK, so photos did not attach. I have searched Chowhounds for help but have found nothing of use, merely comments by some who already knew more about this than do I. Site map no help either.

                      Well, they were decent pix and good chiles. Sorry.

                      1. re: alfairfax

                        Consider posting to any other service - flickr, smugmug, picasa - and simply placing the URL here, as like so:


                        (not my picture)

                        1. re: alfairfax

                          Did they look like these, alfairfax?

                          1. re: fmed

                            Yes, the one being held in chopsticks is exactly what I have, but more red.
                            A first attempt to use flickr and link to it:

                            1. re: alfairfax

                              Then what you have is indeed Sichuan Facing Heaven pepper. It changes colour from red to a slightly terracotta when you cook it in oil (like in that dish). Not easy to find outside China it seems. I'm still looking for it here in my city (though there is, evidently, a source).

                              1. re: fmed

                                It won't really help most denizens of the Bay Area board, but I do know that a few of you are regular visitors to Vancouver so I thought I'd post an update....

                                I found large and small bags of decent quality Facing Heaven peppers at Rice World in Richmond BC. $4.20 CAD for a large 400g bag.

                              2. re: alfairfax

                                Excellent. I will bring this with me when I search. I was just at the 99 Ranch Daly City and did not see them. Will check markets in LA's San Gabriel Valley this week.

                        2. re: david kaplan

                          This is a great find! Interestingly, I was at Ranch 99 on Friday looking for these, and the only chilies the clerk could point me to were in the Hispanic section. Do you recall where in the store you found them, and was this recent?

                          Thanks everyone for your Thai pickled chili recommendations. Seeding those sounds like a good idea.

                          1. re: mielemaiale

                            I wish I could be more specific, but...they were on a lower shelf with several other kinds of dried chiles in cellophane bags. No labels or signage to indicate Sichuan products; it was necessary to paw through the bags which, at least when I was looking, were not that neatly stacked and to read the labels
                            Next I want to look for ground Sichuan chile and also to find the pickled chile which I had not been seeking last time.
                            This was at Richmond Ranch 99, remember.

                            1. re: mielemaiale

                              I just struck out at Richmond 99 Ranch, too. They were not among the Asian dried chilis nor among the Mexican chilis, which are in the same aisle. I showed pictures and characters to the staff, and they didn't find them, either. Please report any sightings!

                              1. re: david kaplan

                                Did you look in the spice section, bottom row?

                                1. re: adrienne156

                                  Yes, all around where the long, thin dried chilies are (known in China as "Japanese chilies" even though they're hotter than anything used in Japanese cooking). No sign of any other chili varieties, aside from the Mexican packaged chilies at the end of that same aisle.

                          2. re: alfairfax

                            I first purchased a bag those dried Sichuan chilies a few years ago at the Daly City 99 Ranch Market. Since then, I've noticed that they are not stocked on a regular basis, so you have to keep looking for them every time. They're located in the section with the Asian spices and dried red chilies, and it's always a bit of a treasure hunt. Since they only cost something like $0.80 a bag, make sure to stock up when you do find them.

                          3. What about growing some? Anybody know where one can buy some seeds for planting?

                            In my experience just a plant or two of hot peppers can make a large supply....

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: boris_qd

                              This is probably a really dumb question: is any significant fraction of the seeds in a dried pepper still vital enough to sprout?

                              1. re: Thomas Nash

                                A friend brought back some dried red Kashmir Chilies from Indian for me once and I was able to sprout and grow many plants from them with plenty of fruits. They were a bit Hotter than the originals but it worked. Dry seeds usually sprout unless high heat has been used to dry them.

                                1. re: Thomas Nash

                                  Thomas, let me be the first to sign up for your Sichuan chile pepper CSA.

                                  1. re: Thomas Nash

                                    These days you never know what's been heat treated or irradiated to kill pathogens. Even if the seed is viable, after irradiation it may grow into an altered variety.

                                      1. re: Scrapironchef

                                        Irradiation was one of the many ways to develop new cultivars before genetic modification. The largest rice crop in California is the Calrose variety, which was created by random DNA damage from radiation.

                                        1. re: PorkButt

                                          Yes, but...

                                          First of all, most genetic modifications caused by radiation are infertile - it takes a lot of effort to actually get something to grow, to find a seed that is both fertile and still produces something resembling what you want.

                                          Further, irradiation of chiles for sanitation purposes, I expect, would be done at much higher dosages than for the delicate genetic work, and is extremely unlikely to produce a viable, normal looking chile tasting slightly different.

                                          Secondly, in the US of A any package containing irradiated food must have a label and symbol indicating this
                                          (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_irr...).
                                          Never mind Sichuan chiles, I have never seen this symbol on any food package -- because of irrational public fears, it is not common for retail items.

                                          Growing a plant from viable seeds in different soils and under different temperature/humidity conditions may very well change the intensity and possibly the flavor from a Sichuan original.

                                          1. re: Thomas Nash

                                            "Growing a plant from viable seeds....."
                                            The mini-habanero peppers that grew in profusion on the little potted plant in my semi-sunny Berkeley backyard were beautiful but surprising mild for the breed.

                                            1. re: Thomas Nash

                                              I did misstate the current conditions. The FDA does not require foods containing irradiated spices to be labeled (and that's apparently where the entire market is) as such and a while back there was a proposal to remove the label requirement for spices but it's not in the current regulations. However, I did dig up a university white paper about dried spices stating that irradiation is not widely used but chemical fumigation is the typical treatment.

                                              You're right about the dosage as well. I should have caught that since I've had radiation safety training. Turns out that the FDA allows up to 30 kGray for herbs and spices which would do some serious damage to any living thing. Anyways, my original point was that I doubted that anything could grow from an irradiated seed.

                                              1. re: PorkButt

                                                I think you mistyped and meant "The FDA does require..." a label

                                                ... until they change their mind anyway ;-)

                                                and chemical fumigation might give the eater cancer, but shouldn't affect the viability of the seeds. I hope the stuff is water soluble so you can wash them.

                                                If I ever find heaven facing chilis, I will have to give some planted seeds to someone who lives in a warm, sunny place where they would have a chance (unlike SF where I live.)

                                                1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                  Nope, current FDA regs state that if a food product contains irradiated spices, no label disclosure is required. However, a spice or herb sold on its own does require a label.

                                    1. You might try Marina Market in Union City, they have a different selection of goods than 99 Ranch and I've had good luck finding Sichuan items there.

                                      1. Didn't find any dried chilies at Ranch 99 (Richmond) this weekend like David, but did nab a couple of jars of Chili Bean sauce and Chili Sauce made in Pixian. I tried the Chili Bean Sauce in my dry-fried beef with celery, and I found it unpleasantly salty. Disappointing, because I had high hopes for these sauces from Pixian. Then again, don't think they were made by the people Dunlop refers to, these were made in "Pixian Industrial Complex" or some such, which doesn't sound remotely artisanal. Nonetheless, it is serviceable, and I'll just know to use less of it.

                                        I haven't used the Chili Sauce yet, I imagine it's similar to pickled chilies, with no vinegar, just brine. I am planning to fermet my own red Fresno chilies that I got at Berkeley Bowl with ShaoXing wine, salt, sugar etc.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: mielemaiale

                                          Would you post your chili fermentation recipe or approximate ratios either here on the home cooking board? Eager to hear how your experiment works out.

                                          1. re: mielemaiale

                                            The chili sauce is fantastic. Searing hot, with a fruity quality and lashings of good, non-vinegar, sour flavor. Went beautifully with my fish fragrant eggplant. I just read a post from Ms. Dunlop herself, BTW, on eGullet saying that she isn't too dogmatic about the variety of chilies themselves, and in fact, is using Korean hot chili pepper to make her chili oi. Go figure.

                                            1. re: mielemaiale

                                              I'm far overdue in posting back, but it doesn't much matter because I didn't find pickled facing heaven peppers, just a sichuan pepper(corn) pickled veggie condiment. It has great spicy numbing pickled flavor, and it does contain pieces of chili pepper, but they are less than 25% of the contents and in pieces that are impossible to identify. Still, I can happily recommend it as a condiment.

                                              I bought it at New May Wah on Clement in San Francisco.

                                              1. re: SteveG

                                                One of the other ingredients Fuchsia Dunlop uses is Sichuan Pickled Chiles, which her book says are almost impossible to find in the West. It looks like that's what you found (as opposed to the Facing Heaven Peppers everyone here is looking for)....

                                                I think that's big news.

                                          2. What you're looking for is Tien Tsin pepper which can be found here:

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: theSauce

                                              Don't think so, theSauce. It's a good substitute, but not the real thing. It's hotter, I believe. But certainly may be our only option for the time being. Thanks for the response!

                                              1. re: mielemaiale

                                                Tien Tsin is a different pepper. But if you want Tien Tsin chiles, Penzey's in Menlo Park sells them.

                                                Penzeys Spices
                                                771 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025

                                              2. re: theSauce

                                                If anyone is looking for them, I picked up a bag of Tien Tsin peppers at Oaktown Spice Shop in Oakland yesterday. I also got some sichuan peppercorns that were more aromatic and floral than the stale old bags I'm used to getting elsewhere.

                                              3. Has anyone found a viable substitute? I've heard many Sichuan restaurants in the US don't even use the Sichuan dried chilies. When I go to places like China Village in Albany the chilis look like Arbol to me (I could be wrong there). So--if you can't get the real thing--what do you use?

                                                11 Replies
                                                1. re: christy319

                                                  Are you all looking for this? There's a whole bunch at Marina Market in San Mateo. I also saw it at the large grocery store on Irving and 25th in the City.

                                                  1. re: klum1971

                                                    You've recently seen facing-heaven chilies at both locations -- the squat dried chilies that look like this?

                                                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/kattebel... (copied from earlier post in this thread


                                                    That's fantastic! Thanks for the lead.

                                                    1. re: david kaplan

                                                      Ah, never mind. When I posted my earlier response, the photo you included didn't appear in my browser. I now see that you found Sichuan peppercorns, but I (and I think others in this thread) are looking for Sichuan dried red chilies. Thanks anyway.

                                                      1. re: david kaplan

                                                        I am also on the hunt for the Facing Heaven chiles. I saw a picture of chiles in a South Indian/Chettinad cooking blog that look very similar to the reference above (http://tinyurl.com/25cthqq ). If they are indeed the same, we may have better luck hunting them in Indian/South Indian super market ubiquitous in the Bay Area. I read online that the vernacular name for this chile is Gundu Milagai/Kundu Milagai.

                                                        Attached picture of Kundu Milagai is from this website:

                                                        1. re: Rapenburg

                                                          Uhm.... looks like I've actually bought Facing Heaven chiles per info of http://www.kitchenchick.com/2007/02/t... . The characters next to Gan Lai Jiao mark in my chile bag is the same as what Kitchen Chick marked.

                                                          I got them yesterday at New Mei Wah on 7th and Clement, on the shelf close by packet fried garlic and fried onion. The price at $ 2.97 was much higher than regular chiles. However, it seems as if the content is mixed with regular long chiles, but I am happy that there some that are conical, like the reference picture above.

                                                          1. re: Rapenburg

                                                            Not only do they look like facing-heaven chilies, but the descriptions of these chilies on the sites you linked to sound like them, too: milder, imparting more color, and more flavorful than thin dried chilies. I'll be checking out the Indian markets soon.

                                                            1. re: david kaplan

                                                              Rapenburg, I'm no expert but the pix you've posted don't look like the facing heaven chiles we can get here in Richmond per fmed's post above. They aren't the right shape or colour. Hope I'm wrong but...

                                                              1. re: grayelf

                                                                Agreed. They look too pointy. Facing Peppers have a rounded bottom.

                                                                Perhaps try a Mexican pepper? I was looking through a some peppers at a local gourmet purveyor. The closest Mexican pepper I found to Facing Heaven in flavour, heat, shape, aroma is Cascabel. Cascabel is a more round though. I haven't tried cooking Sichuan food with it - just a cursory comparison.

                                                                1. re: fmed

                                                                  San Francisans - When you find Facing Heaven Chilis make sure you buy enough of them. One bag here is good for 3 meals as a rule, 10-15 chilis for most dishes and I go though a horrendous number of bags a year. And remember you'll need some spare bags to make chili oil - though note Fuchsia says they use an entirely different chili to make pickled chilis (the next quest to find that variety).

                                                                  I too had difficulty finding them but finally got some in London after trying virtually every shop in Chinatown there. When I returned home - Halifax, NS - I stumbled into a local Chinese store just down the street and found heaps of them. Now they are carried by many such shops.

                                                                  If you can get a greenhouse to grow seeds for you so much the better; most seeds sprouts except FH chilis that are very old - ie a lifeless brown/red colour.

                                                                  1. re: chilibeanpaste

                                                                    Hi chilibeanpaste,
                                                                    Can you tell me what stores you found them in Halifax? I can’t find any in Toronto and I’ll be out in Halifax this year. Would be great to pick some up!

                                                                    1. re: smyhal

                                                                      smyhal - Sorry for the delay, just found your posting. I buy the FHC at the Don 88 Asian Store (902-492-3141) as it is just down the street from home. It's on the corner of South Street & Henry Street in Hfx.


                                                                      Also Tian Phat on the Bedford Highway have them most of the time.


                                                  2. Found a ton of real dried facing heaven chilis in Flushing. Maybe they'll ship. It's called Chang Jiang Supermarket at 41-41 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, NY 11354 (718-359-3399). They also have 2 brands of ground facing heaven chili.

                                                    1. I do know a good place to order heaven facing chiles - there is a couple in Quebec who travel the world getting local spices and mixes, they're quite phenomenal. You can order online at http://spicetrekkers.com/. They get some amazing masalas too, and you can order the books that show the recipes from the little villages they traveled through. It's quite a cool concept.

                                                      1. Since there's lot of talk of Dunlop here and unavailable ingredients, what do locals use to make her recipe for chili oil? It's possible that's how it's supposed to be, but I've been using her recommended Korean chili flakes and find the flavor too mild.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: hyperbowler

                                                          I use Korean Chili and some Hunan Chili to the level of heat I like. You can also use Generic Crushed Red Pepper to up the heat level.