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Where to find Szechuan peppercorns?

c
Chocolatemama Apr 28, 2010 10:19 AM

My spelling may be incorrect, but it is a very common spice used in Asian cooking. I just can't seem to find this spice and I'm not sure why because it is such a widely used spice. I have checked T&T and some other asian stores but have had no luck. I live in Richmond Hill and I'm sure that someone on this board can help me with this!

  1. a
    albanis Apr 28, 2010 10:31 AM

    I haven't found them either (I tried Kensington and SLM and T & T and Chinatown) but bought some overseas (pricey). But!

    You can order them here: http://www.bulkpeppercorns.com/szechuan_peppercorns

    and here: http://www.silkroadspices.ca/about

    Looks like they were banned in the U.S. until recently, maybe that effected their sale here?

    2 Replies
    1. re: albanis
      1sweetpea Apr 28, 2010 10:36 AM

      They also go by the following name: prickly ash. Every one of my Asian grocers in Windsor carries them. I suspect T&T does carry them, only possibly under this second name. SLM may or may not carry them, but you'll definitely have success in any Chinatown.

      This came from Wikipedia: "Sichuan pepper is known in Chinese as huājiāo (花椒; literally "flower pepper"). A lesser-used name is shānjiāo (山椒; literally "mountain pepper")". Ask someone in the store and have these names handy.

      1. re: 1sweetpea
        c
        Chocolatemama Apr 28, 2010 10:39 AM

        Prickly ash!!!! Yes! I saw those at Bayview Mart and thought they looked an awful lot like them. I had no idea they are the same thing. Thank you both for your quick replies!

    2. Kagemusha Apr 28, 2010 11:56 AM

      They're everywhere. Check online pix if you're unsure what to look for. No need to order outside Canada. Silk Road's prices are downright predatory.

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        angelau2 Apr 28, 2010 12:08 PM

        I found them in Chinatown at one of the grocery stores at around 310 Spadina. It's the one where you have to go down a few stairs to go to the store. Outside has fruits and veggies. It's in the aisle of dried goods and you need to really know what it looks like because the packaging isn't in English. Look for little peppercorn shapes with stems. It came in a bag and I think it was around 1.99 or something like that.

        4 Replies
        1. re: angelau2
          a
          albanis Apr 28, 2010 12:49 PM

          I was just thinking that. I buy agar agr from that 310 Spadina place but the package isn't in english, I will memorize the buds next time. I spent kind of a lot on the ones I got.

          I wouldn't say they numb your taste buds but it definitely covers the palate in a different way. It's pretty essential in a lot of dishes as well.

          1. re: albanis
            p
            procrastinasian Jul 20, 2010 04:35 PM

            albanis - I've been looking at a lot of places for inexpensive agar agar powder. I've found the bars and strips in Chinatown, but was the type you got powdered by any chance, and if so, do you remember how much it cost? Thanks!

            1. re: procrastinasian
              a
              albanis Feb 7, 2011 07:36 AM

              Oops, did I respond to this? The agar agar comes in powder form in an envelope with an elephant on it and some writing, maybe Thai? It's $1.29 and in that store on the west side of Spadina, just north of Dundas, down the stairs. It's sandwiched between two fruit stores and is the easiest to use I find.

              I think this came up too but the szechaun peppercorns I find are usually called prickly ash or something like that. So much cheaper than the online versions.

              1. re: albanis
                p
                procrastinasian Feb 7, 2011 08:53 AM

                Thanks! I found some in Little India a couple months ago for about the same price.

                -----
                Little India
                255 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V1Z4, CA

        2. s
          Sadistick Apr 28, 2010 12:30 PM

          You can get these at Sunny Market at Leslie and Finch.

          I don't get it though - what is the point of a spice that numbs your mouth (see: taste buds)?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Sadistick
            1sweetpea Apr 28, 2010 02:36 PM

            There's definitely flavour to them as well as the numbing sensation. I used a small amount, along with a bunch of other spices, in a recipe and the flavour was distinct, but understated. There wasn't enough to numb the senses. Needless to say, it wasn't a Sichuan recipe. The flavour is a bit floral. In large quantities, as I experienced in Chengdu, my lips and tongue went numb and my pulse sped up a bit (maybe an adrenaline rush?), but the pulse increase may have had as much to do with the chiles and chile oil as with the Sichuan pepper.

          2. s
            szw Apr 28, 2010 10:47 PM

            You can find them at any asian supermarket including T&T but you have to know what they look like. IT isn't labelled prickly ash. The only english on the package will say "dried pepper" or "peppercorn" or something like that. I've even seen it at Loblaws in the ones with asian sections. I think the brand name you will likely see is Merlin...not 100% sure about that one though. Just drop by any of the asian markets you live close to and look in the aisle with all the spices in packages. Google it to see what they look like first.

            1. haggisdragon Apr 29, 2010 05:10 AM

              Just wondering if anybody knows how important freshness is with these. (And how can you ensure that they are fresh).

              1 Reply
              1. re: haggisdragon
                Kagemusha Apr 29, 2010 05:58 AM

                Turnover is important. That's why buying online isn't smart, especially in TO where there are so many alternate sources. Have never had freshness issues with these. Besides, they're cheap and can be pitched in exchange for fresh if they've faded. Like most dried spices, they lose their punch with time.

              2. m
                myriam5555 Feb 6, 2011 01:30 PM

                The freshest ones I've found are at a Chinese tea, herb and spice store in Kensington. In addition to szechuan or sichuan peppercorns, they may be labelled "hua jiao" (花椒), the Mandarin name.

                1 Reply
                1. re: myriam5555
                  Kagemusha Feb 6, 2011 05:28 PM

                  I've seen them labeled as "Allspice Berries," too. OOOOps!

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