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Apr 5, 2010 11:29 AM

Sichuan peppercorns

I have a problem with sichuan peppercorns...or at least, I believe that to be the cause. When I eat a dish containing it, like Sichuan cold rabbit, I get this unpleasant metallic taste in my mouth that stays for hours. (I get the same problem from Belon oysters). Is this really the cause of the metallic taste? Or is it another ingredient? I have a recipe I'd like to try, but I think I'd prefer to substitute black or white peppercorns.

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  1. I've never had the taste linger for long, but there's a very distinct metallic taste to the raw ones. It seems to disappear when you cook them well.

    Easiest way to find out is just to chew a few of them on their own and see if it happens. They aren't overpoweringly hot. Of course, if that's the case, then you're in for a period of unpleasantness -- but you can then rule them in or out in your suspect list.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dmd_kc

      That's the problem...when I get this metallic taste in my mouth, either from some Sichuan dishes (like the rabbit) or from Belon oysters, it never seems to lasts with me for hours. Ruins the taste of anything else that I eat...sticks around even after brushing my teeth.

    2. IIRC, there was a chow thread about this same subject sometime last fall, similar problem with Sichuan peppercorns leaving a bad taste. I searched for it but couldn't find, either that or I'm thinking of the "pine-nut month" syndrome thread.

      I get a metallic taste in my mouth from certain types of oysters, but not from rabbit or sichuan peppercorns. What ingredients, in common, are there in the rabbit recipe and in the sauce or dressing for the oysters, that may be a possible source or your distress?

      When chewed, sichuan peppercorns can cause a numbing sensation, or a "tingly" "buzzing" "hyper-salty" sensation, or a feeling like a jolt from a 9-volt battery, according to some eaters. The effect can last from 10 mintues or even up to an hour, and is more pronounced when the peppercorns ar very fresh.

      Perhaps you are very sensitive to the anesthetic properties of the peppecorns. In a quote from Harold McGee, he states " (hydroxy-alpha-sanshool) Sanshools appear to act on several different kinds of nerve endings at once, induce sensitivity to touch and cold in nerves that are ordinarily nonsensitive, and so perhaps cause a kind of general neurological confusion."

      So, you could try dmk-kc's advice to chew a few and see what happens, but as you described, you could be crippled, taste-wise, for hours. My advice is to skip the sichuan peppercorns completely. Adding another pepper to your recipe is cool, but black or white peppercorns are no sub for the sichuan, which are not real peppercorns, by the way.

      On another note, I once switched brands of toothpaste, and had difficulty eating cooked greens, like spinach, which left me with a dry, chalky mouth, until I switched back to my old brand. Probably something to do with oxalic acid, but it was unpleasant, to say the least. You have my symphathy.

      2 Replies
      1. re: bushwickgirl

        I have no problem with rabbit...I cook it as often as I can...its only the rabbit from Sichuan restaurants, all chopped up (including the very sharp rib bones..ugh) in an otherwise flavorful sauce..its a cold dish. The oysters are only Belons...they are very flat and very round...its not the sauce..I don't even have sauce with raw oysters part of the time...its the oyster itself. in the past, I have found that taste with other raw oysters, but very mild and transient. I just might try the technique of chewing a raw peppercorn...early in the day, so the taste will fade by dinnertime..just to confirm things for me.

        1. re: EricMM

          it seems that you don't like or have a reaction to sichuan peppercorn (it's not the rabbit, and it's hard to believe that you have eaten dishes with sichuan peppercorns, had that taste, but couldn't pin it down to the peppercorns). the answer is to not eat them. as far as substituting white or black peppercorns in recipes, it's worth noting that sichuan peppercorns are not peppercorns, and as you probably noticed taste little like black or white peppercorns.

          i've noticed that sichuan peppercorns, like lots of strongly flavored foods, reacts with wine, and if you're drinking a bright acidic wine, it might create an even more unpleasant taste in your mouth.

      2. It's the Sichuan Peppercorn for sure. That metallic taste lasts a couple of hours - the duration depending on the amount consumed. It is really pronounced when I drink cold water. The evening we ate the dish in the picture attached (and other dishes with a similar amount of huajiao), I still had a metallic flavour in my mouth when I went to bed...but was gone in the morning.

        I don't consider it a "problem" per's just part of eating Sichuan food for me.

        PS...I don't know about the oysters...iodine perhaps? That tastes metallic in the mouth and is a common oyster flavour component.

        1 Reply
        1. re: fmed

          I have the same issue if I eat Sichuan peppercorn in large doses, straight. I had a Sichuan 4 pepper chicken...the peppers were black pepper, fresh green chile, dried red chile, and huajiao. The dish was served in a deep-ish bowl, and somehow a lot of huajiao had accumulated at the bottom. The top portion didn't bother me, but when I was picking out from the bottom, my mouth got this horrible medicinal metalic taste that was exacerbated by drinking water. It put me off huajiao. I find that if I use it in small doses, like just a pinch, it is find. When I eat Nepali momos with tomato-sichuan peppercorn chutney, I get the tingle, but no gross metalic taste. There is only a pinch in the whole batch of chutney. For me the trick is just not to eat too much of it. A little goes a long way.