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Jul 5, 2011 07:38 AM

Where to buy Szechuan Peppercorns?

I'm looking for a place to buy Szechuan Peppercorns in the metro-accessible DC area. Prefer on the orange line, but can be flexible.


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  1. If you are unable to find them elsewhere, you can order them from Penzey's.

    1. For what it is worth, I think that the peppercorns I got from Penzeys were much more potent than the ones I purchased from Sam Kam's defunct Annandale location.

      1. If you want to make an excursion out of it, go to Penzey's in Falls Church and then eat at a great Chowhound place, Luzmilla's for Bolivian food. Open for lunch only. Saltenas, humintas, and a great steak a la pobre (I forget what the name is, but it's $12 on the menu). But you will have to go off-line for this as the metro does not go to Falls Church City, even though it's well inside the beltway.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Steve

          Oooh! That sounds like lots of fun! Thanks!

          1. re: terremotia

            Or you could do the Rockville Penzey's. It's an easy 1 mile walk north from the Twinbrook station, and you walk right past Joe's Noodle House, one of the best Sichuan restaurants in the area...

            Joe's Noodle House
            1488 Rockville Pike Ste C, Rockville, MD 20852

            1. re: DanielK

              So, it's definitely not orange-line accessible, but after striking out at the Lotte and H-Mart in Laurel, I managed to find huajiao (Sichuan peppercorns) at a Chinese market in Charlottesville, VA this weekend... for only 2.99 a pound! It's called C'ville Oriental and it's on Rt. 29 in Charlottesville. They also have my favorite Chinese snack of all time... roasted peanuts with red chilis and huajiao. Mmm!

              800 N Rolling Rd, Catonsville, MD

        2. Dean and Deluca has them, and they're not as outrageously priced as I would have expected.

          1. A word about Szechuan peppercorns, things I learned from my Chinese friends. There are different varieties of Szechuan peppercorns, and varying degrees of quality and strength. The peppercorns shipped to the U.S. and distributed through the market coops are not going to be the potent ones you might experience in the Szechuan restaurants in the area. The restaurants get theirs somehow directly from China (surreptitiously, I imagine) . Because the peppercorns that are legally imported are not the best, my friends recommend the Szechuan pepper oil instead. The oils are made in China according to strict specifications of potency and consistency. Back home, cooks might use the peppercorns instead of the oil, but here, they use the oil. The oil is gold in color, not red, like the chili oil. Great Wall on Gallows Road (near Merrifield) carries a couple brands. One costs more than the other (still cheap), but store employees I've asked don't think there's any difference between the two.

            That said, the peppercorns I've bought at Penzey's were the best I've been able to get my hands on. The Asian market's peppercorns often taste like pencil sharpener filings. But nothing compared to the pinch of peppercorns given to me by the woman who runs Great Wall on 14th Street -- really potent -- she said they are not available in the U.S.

            2 Replies
            1. re: MartinDC

              Got mine from Penzey's too, the one's I bought in NYC's Chinatown were awful.

              1. re: MartinDC

                Agree. NYC Chinatown peppercorns have always been disappointing. I've purchased from quite a few shops on multiple trips there. I just gave up and ordered online.