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Feb 29, 2012 08:23 AM

Szechuan Peppercorns- Who piles them on?

I'm getting more and more obsessed with Szechuan peppercorns (Let me be the first to predict, unless others have done it first, that we are going to see these becoming a hip ingredient outside of Chinese restaurants soon). I'd love to know what what restaurants really put a ton of them on certain dishes. Ideally the dish would leave me with no feeling in my tounge for like 48-72 hours. I'm told you can put too much Szechuan peppercorn on a dish, but if you keep adding heat to offset the numbing, I'm not sure that is possible (but would like to find out). Thanks.

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  1. I haven't seen the kind of mega-dosing you describe, but the last couple of times I felt really numb and mentholated was at Sichuan Gourmet in North Billerica and Thailand Cafe in Central Square (which, if you hadn't picked it up here by now, balances a crappy Thai menu with a very fine Sichuan menu). Dan dan noodles at the former, double-cooked pork belly at the latter.

    Sichuan Gourmet has three other outlets: Brookline, Framingham, and Sharon. I haven't been to the Sharon one, but I'd say the other two are quite similar to the original in terms of heat levels. You might have to lobby a bit more for heat in Brookline.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      Fuloon uses a pretty fair amount in some of their dishes.

      1. re: MC Slim JB

        have only been to sharon. love those charred almost black bird chilis. some dishes seemed a bit dry - not a prob with the spicy fish soup @ gourmet dumpling house, with a ~50% sichuan peppercon ~50% chili-pepper broth

        1. re: MC Slim JB

          I've been going to the Sharon SG 3 or 4 times a month since it opened. For the locals... no more Chinatown or Alice's for me with SG available! I used to work near the Framingham SG (never been to Brookline or Billerica) and it's exactly the same food. The manager in Sharon told me early on that their goal was to exactly replicate the food across the restaurants.

          The spiciest thing I've eaten there are the Napa Cabage dishes (beef or Chix). The Hot & Sour soup is killer also - I've never finished a bowl. For great taste/med-high spice I recommend the Dan Dan Noodles, Sichuan Dumpling in Chili Sauce, and the Dried Chicken w/ Chili Sauce. All show the red pepper, but I assume have the ground peppercorn.

          Also, my kid loves the 5 Flavored Beef cold app. Anyone know what cut of meat that is? My guess is an organ, not a muscle.

          1. re: Foodie_BBQ

            I think their five flavor beef might be tongue--it often is. I've only had it once, so my memory is vague, but I'm pretty sure it's neither an organ nor smooth muscle (such as intestine, as opposed to striated muscle such as steak.)

            As for consistency, my experience is that the dishes at the three newer locations are pretty much the same, although Framingham has some specials that the others don't, and Brookine has even more of those. When last I spoke to Chef Liu (the master chef) he was splitting his time between Sharon and Framingham. Having an actual cook as a partner does seem to give the chain a reliability over the past 5 years that many other Chinese restaurants can't maintain for even a few months.

            (I've never been quite as happy with the original location--I feel as if the spicing is somewhat less complex and I don't get as much ma as I like. If I want a meal on the north side, I go to Sichuan Garden 2 or Chilli Garden.)

        2. Search for KWagle's posts, he has a 麻 fetish and has made some very detailed posts about who does and doesn't pile it on.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Luther

            Thanks guys. I was exaggerating about the no feeling in the tounge for 2 days thing, but KWagle's description of Chongqing chicken at Sichuan Garden seems promissing, as does Sichuan Gourmet. Now I just need to get over my aversion to ever leaving downtown.

            1. re: ScotchandSirloin

              The Chongqing chicken at New Shanghai in Chinatown packs a wallop and you can stay downtown -- the chicken is actually difficult to find buried in the mass of peppercorns.

              1. re: ebaba

                Oh, I like me some New Shanghai, but never had the Chongquing chicken there. Will try.

                1. re: ebaba

                  I like this dish and it does have a high number of red chili pepper pods but not so high in sichuan peppercorns (the little round guys) when I've had this dish. Their mapo tofu does have a good amount of these and there is that nice ma la tingle from that dish.

                  1. re: ebaba

                    I love New Shanghai but the last time I was there I got the Chongqing chicken and was a little disappointed. They really piled on the dried chilies and chili flakes, but there weren't a ton of peppercorns and not much flavor. There is another spicy chicken dish on the menu with virtually the same (English) name that has more ma la, fewer chili flakes. I think it's the "Stir Fried Chicken with Spicy Capsicum" or 三 椒 煸 雞

                  2. re: ScotchandSirloin

                    I had that at SG Framingham. It was really excessive on the peppercorns. Made me realize the taste is similar to cardamom.

                2. One of the Kind is not stingy with the ma la

                  One of the Kind
                  1095 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                  1. The "dry diced chicken with hot peppers" and the "chicken chong style" (preferred dish) at Zoe's usually have noticeable amounts. I'll take noticeable, because some places don't even manage that.

                    Personally I think they are more effective ground into a powder. When I make these kinds of dishes at home I amp up the recipes that call for whole peppercorns by also adding some ground powder to the dish.

                    1. If you really are into szechuan peppercorns, try making a vodka infusion. 1/2 tbsp to a pint ratio, steeped for a day, is a place to start. Try a splash in a martini.

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