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Mar 15, 2012 07:42 PM

Sichuan peppercorns- duds?

Years ago I lived in China and loved sichuan food and those delicious sichuan peppercorns. However I have never been able to get that numbing bubbly flavor out of the ones I have bought in supermarkets. Any idea why that is? Do you have to specially prepare them before adding to a dish to get the desired effect? I typically just crush them up a bit and throw them in? Am I doing it wrong or are the ones sold here not fresh enough or something?

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  1. Most of the recipes I've seen require toasting the peppercorns in a dry skillet or in a little oil first, then grinding them. This begins to release the oils in the hulls, where the flavor is.

    That said, I'm starting to think a lot of what is sold here as Sichuan peppercorn (at least where I live) is not the real thing, or is too old or too processed -- total lack of flavor, no matter what you do. The FDA requires that this type of pepper be seriously heat-treated before it can come into the US, and that might result in a loss of flavor, too. (After a virus scare, they'd actually banned import of Sichuan peppercorns to the US until about 3.5 years ago).

    Have you ever tried the peppercorns from JR Mushrooms & Specialties? I see them on Amazon, but have yet to order any.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ninrn

      Hello, I actually bought the latest tin of these things in new Zealand where I am now. They came straight from China as far as I can tell into Auckland. I actually suspected the same thing with the heat treating as I bought them in the states too and those were also duds. I tried toasting them dry, with oil, crushing first then toasting, vice versa, these things are just duds. I have not tried that other brand however. I might give that a try.

    2. Sadly, the only way to get the same 'Sichuan Peppercorns' that you had in China is to get someone in China to ship them to you directly. I have run across the same problem as you (albeit for different ingredients), and have learned the hard way that what we can get here in the US is not the same as the authentic ingredients from other cuisines.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jerry i h

        Apparently you can get the good stuff, but the majority of the stuff sold in western supermarkets (ie, not in China) is of inferior quality. Some of the posters on that long thread claimed to have scored quality sichuan pepper. Thing is, that thread has been dead for 5 years and the links etc don't work. Anyone know a current reputable seller of these things?

        1. re: badmajon99

          We've gotten good ones from Penzey's (they sell online at, but I don't know whether they ship to New Zealand. (And we've never been to China, so I can't compare to ones you'd find there.)