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Feb 26, 2010 11:18 AM

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 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.