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Sichuan Peppercorns...

f
foodster Dec 30, 2013 10:29 AM

I'm making a recipe that calls for Sichuan peppercorns. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any where I live. Is there anything that can be
substituted for Sichuan peppercorns. Any help will be appreciated. Thanks!

  1. TorontoJo Dec 30, 2013 10:38 AM

    I'm not sure there is anything that can replicate the mouth number qualities of Sichuan peppercorns. If you don't mind mail order, you can get them from Penzey's:

    http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzey...

    1. l
      LorenzoGA Dec 30, 2013 10:40 AM

      Sichuan peppercorns don't contribute a major flavor so much as they provide an anesthetic effect on the tongue--that is, they make your tongue feel numb. No real substitute. As another poster points out, you could mail-order them.

      5 Replies
      1. re: LorenzoGA
        BananaBirkLarsen Dec 30, 2013 10:49 AM

        Really? I can taste a flavour, and I can smell the same flavour when I stick my nose in the bag. Sort of a pinier version of black pepper. It also has that strange effect on the tongue. Like everyone has said, there isn't really any substitute I can think of. If you don't want to order them, I'd add a bit of black pepper and accept that your dish will be missing one of its (presumably many) dimensions.

        1. re: BananaBirkLarsen
          l
          LorenzoGA Dec 30, 2013 11:35 AM

          I agree they do have a flavor--in fact I find it pleasant--but I think the numbing effect is their main reason for being.

        2. re: LorenzoGA
          chefj Dec 30, 2013 12:34 PM

          I also disagree about the flavor of Szechuan Pepper.It has a very distinctive flavor that is irreplaceable in Szechuan cooking. Citrusy and vaguely piney it is hard to describe. When the spice is stale much of the aroma is lost.

          1. re: chefj
            greygarious Dec 30, 2013 12:41 PM

            ChefJ, just click a second time to un-recommend.

            1. re: greygarious
              chefj Dec 30, 2013 01:54 PM

              Thanks. I did not know that!

        3. DoobieWah Dec 30, 2013 10:49 AM

          Not sure where you are or where you've looked but most Asian grocers will have them.

          (And at a tenth of the price as Penzey's.)

          1 Reply
          1. re: DoobieWah
            w
            Westminstress Dec 30, 2013 03:03 PM

            Yes, but after buying them recently from penzeys I will never go back to the Asian grocer. The penzeys peppercorns are so much more flavorful!

          2. Chemicalkinetics Dec 30, 2013 11:15 AM

            You can find Sichuan (Szechuan) peppercorns in most Chinese grocery stores/supermarkets. Do you have one near by? If not, you can buy them from the internet -- if you can wait.

            There isn't any real substitution for Szechuan peppercorns because it is very special. It has a "numbing/tingling" effect on your tongue.

            "Sichuan pepper has a unique aroma and flavour that is not hot or pungent like black, white or chili peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth "

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sichuan_pepper

            By the way, they look like this.

            https://www.google.com/search?q=%E8%8...

            Buy whole spice, not the ground up powder -- very important.

            52 Replies
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
              Caroline1 Dec 30, 2013 04:14 PM

              Maybe my problem is that I don't read Chinese, or maybe it never occurred to me to ask someone who does (like a store clerk!) but I can't remember ever seeing the whole version in an Asian market, only the pre-ground. Am I blind?

              1. re: Caroline1
                chefj Dec 30, 2013 04:19 PM

                They are obviously whole as opposed to ground. You do not need to read Chinese.
                They are often labeled Prickly Ash

                 
                1. re: chefj
                  Caroline1 Dec 30, 2013 04:36 PM

                  Thanks. I've got several ounces of them on hand.

                  1. re: chefj
                    d
                    dijon Jan 2, 2014 02:22 PM

                    Agree, you usually find them labeled prickly ash in the Chinese market. Preparation was the subject of another thread:
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5832...

                    In my experience the taste is distinctive, useful and necessary in many recipes. You need to toast the whole spice until fragrant in a skillet, grind in a large mortar and pestle, then strain out the tasteless gritty husk retaining the finely ground black seed which keeps fairly well.

                    1. re: dijon
                      King of Northern Blvd Jan 2, 2014 02:38 PM

                      Aren't you supposed to discard the seed and use the husk?

                      1. re: King of Northern Blvd
                        chefj Jan 2, 2014 05:06 PM

                        yes

                        1. re: King of Northern Blvd
                          d
                          dijon Jan 6, 2014 01:52 PM

                          no, that is not my experience

                          1. re: dijon
                            Chemicalkinetics Jan 6, 2014 03:13 PM

                            http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia...

                            I have only bought and used the husks and not the seeds.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                              Caroline1 Jan 6, 2014 03:37 PM

                              I use my Sichuan pepper in a dedicated pepper mill. I've been all over the web since this discussion started and so far I've failed to find any instructions to discard the seed(s). I've opened up my pepper mill and taken out one pepper "corn" and damned if I can find a seed in it worth taking out! I use five or six different types of pepper regularly -- black Tellecherry, Tasmanian peppercorns, white pepper, grains of paradise, Sichuan peppercorns, and long pepper. The ONLY one I don't keep in a pepper mill "at the ready" is long pepper because it is exactly what the name states: looooooong, and defies a pepper mill.

                              I suppose that for those fortunate enough to live where they can get fresh, plump, juicy Sichuan pepper, it might be worth while to spit the seeds out or remove them first, but for those of us who have to count ourselves lucky to be able to buy the dried variety, I don't think the frustration of trying to remove any seeds is going to have a flavor pay off that comes anywhere close to being worthwhile.... But... To each his/her own! I'm happy with the seeds. '-)

                              Or maybe what I'm buying ARE the husks? There is no indication either way on the packaging. Where is anyone buying them with identifiable seeds inside? Curious minds!!!

                              1. re: Caroline1
                                King of Northern Blvd Jan 6, 2014 03:46 PM

                                The seeds are very small black orbs.

                                1. re: Caroline1
                                  chefj Jan 6, 2014 03:57 PM

                                  Good quality "Szechuan Peppercorns" are just the Husks. Only I have only seen the Seeds in one package in very many years of using them. The seed itself is fairly flavorless in comparison to the Husk.

                                  1. re: chefj
                                    Caroline1 Jan 6, 2014 03:59 PM

                                    Thanks!

                                  2. re: Caroline1
                                    Chemicalkinetics Jan 6, 2014 04:09 PM

                                    Caroline,

                                    Most of the Sichuan (Szechuan) peppercorns sold have the seeds removed. See the link below:

                                    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4e/%E8%8A%B1%E6%A4%92_Zanthoxylum.jpg

                                    The left are the seeds, and the right are the husks.

                                    You said that you buy yours from WorldSpice. As you can see from the photo, these are the husk. They are opened. The seeds have been removed:

                                    http://www.worldspice.com/spices/pepper-szechuan

                                    This may be a better photo (below). You can see that relatively huge black seed in left, and middle right.

                                    http://maxcdn.coffeeandvanilla.com/wo...

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                      Chemicalkinetics Jan 6, 2014 05:29 PM

                                      For people who are interested in the Szechuan pepper post-harvest process include seed removal, there is a video. I suggest you only watch from 1:40 to 3:30 min.

                                      http://sannong.cntv.cn/program/nonggu...

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                        Caroline1 Jan 6, 2014 10:33 PM

                                        CK, thank you for all the work! This is above and beyond, not to mention edifying. I especially enjoyed their method for seed removal. You could say they were having a bash.

                                        Now, how do I stop watching Chinese TV? I can't seem to just turn it off.... Great jokes!!! '-)

                                        1. re: Caroline1
                                          Chemicalkinetics Jan 7, 2014 12:07 PM

                                          I am glad that you like it. It is not in English, but I think the video visual was simple to understand. I know about Szechuan pepper process by reading. This thread had me searching for one, and I am glad that I got to watch the video. A picture/video is worth thousand words.

                                          Of course, then I got really excited and opened my new bag of Szechuan peppercorn and saw some seeds in there. I spent an hour picking out the seeds -- I did it in two iterations and really removed quite a few.

                                          Just ate a bowl of wonton soup with Szechuan peppercorns. It was awesome.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                            Caroline1 Jan 7, 2014 06:32 PM

                                            Honey Bunches (CK). you didn't pay close enough attention to the video! YOU don't hand pick the seeds out. THEY bash the blazes out of the peppercorns with an implement that looks very like a cricket bat to me, THEN they dump the bashed peppercorns into a mesh "sorter" that retains the husks while the seeds fall through.

                                            Maybe you need to buy your Sichuan pepper from World Spice (worldspice.com). That's where I buy mine and I NEVER get seeds or twigs or other "undesirables!" Works for me!

                                            In a silent salute to this thread, I added Sichuan peppercorns to some Mexican refried beans I made from scratch.... It adds a whole new dimension to "speecy spicy goodness"! Try it! You'll like it...! '-)

                                            My recipe:

                                            1/4 cup fat (lard or olive oil)
                                            1/2 sweet onion, diced (Vidalia onion OR yellow onion)
                                            1 tsp to tons of chile powder, to taste (Gebhardt's is a nice blend)
                                            1 tsp crushed Sichuan pepper
                                            1/2 tsp or to taste ground cumin
                                            1 garlic clove minced
                                            2 or 3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
                                            1 can any brand unflavored fat free refried beans
                                            Chicken stock, as needed
                                            Queso Fresco, or Cheddar cheese, crumbled or grated

                                            In an 8" cast iron skillet heat lard until liquid or just pour in olive oil and add onions over medium heat. Add a little salt to the onions to make them wilt faster. Do not brown the onions! When they are limp, add the spices and allow them to bloom in the hot oil. Add crushed garlic and just allow to wilt a bit. Add can of fat free unflavored refried beans and stir to incorporate. Add chicken stock to gain desired consistency. I like mine a bit on the runny side. Like a good risotto, good refried beans should not stand in a lump, but should ooze gently! Adjust seasonings to taste. At the last minute stir in cilantro. Serve hot with grated cheese melted over the top such as Mexican queso fresco (traditional) or if you want to go TexMex, cheddar will do.

                                            The advantage of "plain" fat free canned refried beans is that they are simply mashed a bit, and not refried at all and will save you the trouble of soaking beans, and all that jazz, I sometimes use regular "high fat" canned refried beans combined with a goodly amount of chicken stock to make a quick version of bean soup. If you doubt me, read the ingredients labels on some brands of fat-free refried beans,,, "Ingredients: beans."

                                            Salud!

                                            1. re: Caroline1
                                              Chemicalkinetics Jan 7, 2014 06:54 PM

                                              <YOU don't hand pick the seeds out. >

                                              :) I don't have the mesh tools. I used my oxo salad spinner (yes, I really did). It sort of work. The seeds tend to go to the bottom, but far from perfect. So I had to do some manual pickings.

                                              < That's where I buy mine and I NEVER get seeds or twigs or other "undesirables!>

                                              I was a cheapo. I was at the supermarket. One Szechuan peppercorn package costs about twice as much as the other one, so I bought the cheaper one. In hindsight, I think the more expensive one looked a bit more cleaner.

                                              That is a pretty cool recipe. I got lard....etc. I didn't know unflavored fat free refried beans are just mashed up bean, but it makes sense. So this recipe is a traditional Mexican refried beans with addition of Szechuan pepper? Everything else is the same as a normal refried bean recipe?

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                c
                                                CookingForReal Jan 17, 2014 08:40 PM

                                                I don't think you need to worry about picking them out - I don't think they add anything, but I don't think they take anything away if they're there, either. I've never ever seen seeds, just husks - but this is the first batch I've been able to find in years so maybe things have changed since the import ban was lifted ... they've been technically banned for most of my lifetime but I was able to find them occasionally anyway.

                                                Anyway that's what I was told by a Chinese friend, not to worry about picking out seeds - but I don't know how much of a cook she was, LOL!

                                                1. re: CookingForReal
                                                  Chemicalkinetics Jan 17, 2014 09:53 PM

                                                  :) Thanks. I know. I just thought it will be fun. I don't know if you saw the link I have earlier.

                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9295...

                                                  I just it is very cool, so I wanted to try out.

                                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                  Caroline1 Jan 19, 2014 09:22 AM

                                                  Wow! Sorry for the delayed answer. Let's just say sometimes life gets in the way... '-)

                                                  Is this a traditional refried beans recipe, you ask... Let's just say I've never met two Mexican cooks who make refried beans EXACTLY the same way. On the other hand, I've never served my refried beans to anyone, Mexican or not, who hasn't had a second helping. My recipe would probably be a tad more traditional if you just leave out the Sichuan peppers and put the cilantro in your salsa. Then you'll come closer to "universal" refried beans, if there is such a thing...

                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                      d
                                      dijon Jan 17, 2014 08:25 AM

                                      Nice photo. This does appear to be a controversy. I've not run into husk only peppercorns in the packages I have bought although the seed is small and perhaps overlooked. Mortar and pestle seems the best way to grind, I'm looking for a better way, but the husks are resistant and get filtered out in my open mesh strainer, when I taste the resistant husk bits they are tough and have little taste compared to the grindings which filter through.

                                      1. re: dijon
                                        eatzalot Jan 17, 2014 09:48 AM

                                        Again (mentioned some of this earlier in thread) I don't know of real "controversy," and after years of buying and cooking with them, this thread also is the first place I've heard of anyone so fastidious as to pointedly remove the seed kernel from these "peppercorns" (hua-jiao) at home, though I see CK was using it both in whole form and in a soup, so I can see doing that there.

                                        The several Sichuan cookbooks standard in the US have typically mentioned roasting (in a dry pan) and then grinding, especially if you want to sprinkle the spice on a dish at the end. Chiang & Schrecker (1976, 1987) made a point of how the whole spice is sometimes used in Sichuan in long-stewed dishes. Delfs, and Dunlop IIRC, generally roasted and ground them.

                                        I use a coffee grinder after pan-roasting, much easier than a mortar, which I've also used. (Afterwards, dust out the grinder with a soft brush, and wipe with paper towel moistened with rubbing alcohol to very effectively remove any numbing effects from future coffee.)

                                        None of the recipes I've cooked from bothered to separate the seed kernel from the husk (nor do most commercial packagers I've seen). Usually, kernel gets either ground to powder, or stewed to innocuoussness, so why fuss over it?

                                        In the good Sichuanese restaurants around here (we've had many of them since the original US fashion for Sichuanese food hit in the 1970s), I typically see the spice as a ground roasted powder dusting finished dishes, like mapo doufu or dàn dàn miàn.

                                        And hua jiao is a commodity household product, apt to be sold at the neighborhood mom-and-pop Chinese market in bags with confusing English euphemisms, alongside the bags of star anise and salted fermented black beans. In the later part of the so-called "ban" period -- now it can be told! -- you got them easily enough, openly, here in the San Francisco region at Chinese herb shops, which also are fairly numerous.

                                        1. re: eatzalot
                                          Caroline1 Jan 19, 2014 09:36 AM

                                          eatz, my Sichuan pepper lives in a pepper mill and I grind as needed. While your coffee grinder method sounds very effective, the clean-up sounds daunting. I shopped around and found inexpensive pepper mills with clear acrylic bodies and metal burrs that are adjustable for fine through course grinds. I use several kinds of pepper, but only the Sichuan, grains of paradise, and Tasmanian are in see-through mills. It's super convenient and waste free. Oh, and always fresh!

                                          1. re: Caroline1
                                            eatzalot Jan 19, 2014 09:46 AM

                                            That sounds like a creative approach! I might do it if I had the extra pepper mills.

                                            (Cleanup of electric coffee grinder, by the method I mentioned -- quick brush out, as is good practice anyway when grinding coffee, followed by alcohol wipe which picks up all the hua-jiao residue -- takes all of a few seconds, probably less time than I spend grinding.)

                                            The hua-jiao is always pan-roasted before I grind it, then stored airtight afterwards (where it keeps good quality for at least a week or two -- it gets used up before then).

                                            I only use the spice un-roasted when making stews, like the classic Sichuanese spicy beef stew, which also is a basis for beef noodle soup. (Following practices cited in the classic cookbooks I mentioned.)

                                          2. re: eatzalot
                                            JoanN Jan 24, 2014 06:39 AM

                                            Since reading about it in Fucshia Dunlop's book, I always toast and grind my peppercorns and then put them through a sieve, whether the recipe calls for ground peppercorns or not. It's not just that I don't care for the crunchiness that unground peppercorns impart to a dish, but I find the ground peppercorns disperse more readily throughout the dish, which increase the ma la effect.

                                          3. re: dijon
                                            Chemicalkinetics Jan 17, 2014 10:36 AM

                                            Appreciated. Certainly, there are people who use just the husks and some people just use the seeds. The latter being a much smaller minority.

                                            <Mortar and pestle seems the best way to grind>

                                            I use mortar and pestle from time to time, but often, you can just use the whole husks without any modifications. Just to show you a few photo which the husks are not at all ground:

                                            http://images.meishij.net/p/20101028/969aecbcc484db1430c422e30610fcd5_150x150.jpg

                                            http://images.meishij.net/p/20100803/9f8d4f8e3d557fb9e7dbb1447bdd0a67_150x150.jpg

                                            http://images.meishij.net/p/20100713/af24fddd821492d976d1a629c6ca8986_150x150.jpg

                                            As for the seeds themselves, they are very black. See the photo below where they are sold:

                                            http://img1.jqw.com/2012/02/24/430455...

                                            Do yours look like that? They are black and very solid. They are said to be very healthy.

                                            <when I taste the resistant husk bits they are tough and have little taste>

                                            If you want to try the husks, then I would advise you just buy the husks. They are not outrageously expensive. You can buy them in stores or online. Online will be more expensive, but may be easier for some people. I can imagine the husks which come with your seeds are not representative of the typical husks. My guess is that you will find the husks to be more "powerful" than your seeds.

                                            As for how to use the Szechuan pepper (husks), there are many ways to do it. The standard method are: 1) hot oil extraction, 2) steaming, 3) boiling water, 4) stir fried and combined with ingredient....etc.

                                            P.S.: To some extent, I am surprise that you use the actual seeds because they are not easy to come by.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                              eatzalot Jan 17, 2014 10:42 AM

                                              Some people "just use the seeds?" That too is new to me in this thread.

                                              Everything I've read and experienced attributes the flavor and aroma to the husks, and the seeds are just along for the ride, and are always a minor consideration, at most. The classic cookbooks scarcely mention them.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                d
                                                dijon Jan 27, 2014 01:22 PM

                                                Well, I am toasting and grinding another batch soon, I will try to be more observant. The photos and links, video are very good, my chinese is nil.

                                                1. re: dijon
                                                  Chemicalkinetics Jan 27, 2014 01:36 PM

                                                  <I will try to be more observant>
                                                  Just buy the husk (husk in a bag) and see if you like it.

                                                  <The photos and links, video are very good, my chinese is nil.>

                                                  Yeah, unfortunately it is in Chinese without subtitle, but I think the overall video more or less showed what they were doing.

                                          4. re: dijon
                                            King of Northern Blvd Jan 6, 2014 03:30 PM

                                            Any sichuan restaurant I have been to I have only been served the husks.

                                    3. re: Caroline1
                                      Chemicalkinetics Dec 30, 2013 04:25 PM

                                      First, maybe we have different definition of ground vs whole. The "whole" Szechuan peppercorns I am talking about are slightly processed, like these:

                                      http://importfood.com/media/spsp0801l.jpg

                                      <I can't remember ever seeing the whole version in an Asian market,>

                                      Second, this may have to do with timing. There was a time that Szechuan peppercorns were banned in US.

                                      "Even during the ban years (1968 to 2005, with the most serious crackdown near the end) those in the know found ways to get a Szechuan peppercorn supply. For those without a source, though, their relevant recipes were bleak. "

                                      http://www.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/food/article/The-Szechuan-peppercorn-is-back-after-a-long-term-1265515.php

                                      "Then, in 2005, the ban was lifted altogether, at least for peppercorns heated to 170 degrees, to kill bacteria. That paved the way for something like a national Renaissance in Sichuan cuisine -- in evidence every time a mouth-tingling plate of razor clams with Szechuan peppercorn pesto is served at Manhattan's Szechuan Gourmet. "

                                      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03...

                                      During that "banned" period, it was very difficult to buy whole Szechuan peppercorns. I remember causally asking about the peppercorns in SF Chinatown: "Do you happen to carry Szechuan peppercorns?" The owner (also clerk) looked at me for 3 seconds, and then took out a small bag from a draw under her cashier machine. It was like buying illegal drugs. :).

                                      I actually didn't even want it. I was just asking about it, but after that scenario, I felt I had to buy it.

                                      Anyway, my point is that during that "banned" period, I have only seen the ground version in open display, and it was not until the ban has lifted that I started to see the whole peppercorns in open display.

                                      Maybe this is why you didn't see any whole Szechuan peppercorns.

                                      I do find the whole Szechuan peppercorn to be a bit more potent, and certainly more tongue numbing.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                        Caroline1 Dec 30, 2013 05:19 PM

                                        It probably has a great deal to do with the ban! When I first moved to Plano in 2005, I couldn't find the whole peppercorns in any of the many Asian markets in this area, and when I asked about them they just looked at me like I was crazy! But I did find some imported sansho from Japan, but it was a blend and already ground. That was not too long after I discovered World Spice, in Seattle, and when I couldn't find Sichuan peppercorns locally, I just ordered them from Seattle. I will say they are "fresher and tinglier" than my resources from the past have been. A bit pricier on some things, a bit cheaper on others, but overall I can not fault their quality on anything! When I start to run low, sounds like something to add to my 99 Ranch Market shopping list! See what can be learned on Chowhound! '-)

                                        And in case anyone is interested, World Spice is also a great source for Tasmanian pepperberries and true wasabe (wasabia japonica). They've both shot up in price over the last year or two, so I'm using them a bit sparingly. Well, not really on the wasabe. I can't make wasabe mashed potatoes without it! '-)

                                        EDIT: Actually, that's not really true. I have a fantastic "stash" of very expensive spices that I lucked out and bought when the market was down and they were VERY cheap, so I stocked up, sealed them in air free sous vide cooking pouches, and have them tucked away in the freezer. Like 14 grams of saffron... two jars of freeze dried real wasabe... I can't think of what else. Maybe that's all? Anyway, watching the market and pouncing is a good thing! '-)

                                        1. re: Caroline1
                                          Chemicalkinetics Dec 30, 2013 05:48 PM

                                          <they just looked at me like I was crazy>

                                          No, they probably wonder if you are some kind of federal agents trying to catch them.

                                          < Maybe that's all? Anyway, watching the market and pouncing is a good thing! '-)>

                                          Ha ha ha.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                            Breadcrumbs Dec 30, 2013 06:07 PM

                                            I'd be curious to know if anyone has seen fresh Sichuan peppercorns in North America. To me, nothing beats their tongue-numbing flavour sensation.

                                            1. re: Breadcrumbs
                                              l
                                              LorenzoGA Dec 31, 2013 06:16 AM

                                              By "fresh" you mean untreated with heat or radiation? I suspect it is not permitted to import them into the US.

                                              1. re: LorenzoGA
                                                Breadcrumbs Dec 31, 2013 06:49 AM

                                                No Lorenzo, I mean fresh, on the stem like this:

                                                http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2012/05/...

                                                1. re: Breadcrumbs
                                                  l
                                                  LorenzoGA Jan 2, 2014 01:47 PM

                                                  Interesting. I have definitely never seen that in the US.

                                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs
                                                    c
                                                    CookingForReal Jan 17, 2014 08:55 PM

                                                    Your best bet might be to look for them preserved in brine or pickled in a jar. I have no idea how that would be labeled.

                                                    I've (rarely) seen something called "green sichuan pepper" like this:

                                                    http://posharpstore.com/en-us/premium...

                                                    They are dried. I've never actually bought any because I wasn't sure (still not sure) what they actually were, and I've not seen them in person lately at all. But they may be closer to the flavor of the fresh sort.

                                                    Now I wish I had some myself. I'm on a sichuan peppercorn jag ATM.

                                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs
                                                      m
                                                      MikeG Jan 23, 2014 03:48 PM

                                                      I've never heard of them being commercially produced in this country, but I just noticed you can buy seedlings from Richter's nursery - www.richters.com - wish I had the space to try one as a houseplant!

                                                  2. re: Breadcrumbs
                                                    chefj Jan 18, 2014 10:39 AM

                                                    I just realized that there is Prickly Ash Growing less than a block from my house! I am going to keep a close eye on it with hopes of harvesting some.

                                                    1. re: chefj
                                                      Breadcrumbs Jan 18, 2014 10:52 AM

                                                      Now that's smart chefj, keep us posted!

                                                      1. re: chefj
                                                        Chemicalkinetics Jan 18, 2014 01:43 PM

                                                        I advise you not to pick the Szechuan peppercorns from your neighbor. You may get a beating.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                          chefj Jan 18, 2014 02:18 PM

                                                          Don't worry I can take care of myself. I doubt they even know what the Tree is. They did not plant it.

                                                          1. re: chefj
                                                            Chemicalkinetics Jan 18, 2014 02:26 PM

                                                            :D In that case, I advise you to pick the Szechuan peppers on a sunny bright day, and sun-dried them for about 5-7 hours.

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                              chefj Jan 18, 2014 04:46 PM

                                                              Thanks!

                                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                      Caroline1 Dec 30, 2013 06:48 PM

                                                      Hey, I have enough saffron to make a paella that will feed the entire Chinese Army!

                                                      LOL! And at 80 years old that may just be what I need to do if I'm going to use it all up before my bucket list is bucketed! '-)

                                                      1. re: Caroline1
                                                        s
                                                        sr44 Dec 30, 2013 07:59 PM

                                                        Where should we marshall?

                                                        1. re: sr44
                                                          Caroline1 Dec 30, 2013 08:15 PM

                                                          Hey! You didn't mention you're a military guy! You do know I'm not talking terra cotta warriors here, don't you? '-)

                                                          1. re: Caroline1
                                                            s
                                                            sr44 Dec 31, 2013 06:52 AM

                                                            I'm not either military nor a guy, but I'm ready to do my bit in situations of excess. Capers are my problem.

                                                            1. re: sr44
                                                              Caroline1 Dec 31, 2013 12:17 PM

                                                              When someone doesn't use "Sally" or "JacK" as a handle on these boards, I get sooooooooopoo confused! Sorry 'bout that. Maybe the tech team can figure out a way to have a pink or blue frame around our avatars?

                                                              Meanwhile, how many bowls of paella do you think you can down at one sitting? And not to worry: no capers in my paella! '-)

                                                              1. re: Caroline1
                                                                s
                                                                sr44 Dec 31, 2013 12:22 PM

                                                                Some of the Sallys and Jacks aren't who they seem to be. I think I'm good for a bowl or 2.

                                                                My caper problem isn't that I don't like them, but that somehow I have 5 jars of them.

                                            2. Melanie Wong Dec 30, 2013 02:47 PM

                                              Japanese sansho pepper

                                              1. Caroline1 Dec 30, 2013 04:07 PM

                                                For me, Sichuan peppercorns so have a distinct flavor. I buy them whole from World Spice, and store them in a dedicated peppermill and grind them fresh, as needed.
                                                http://www.worldspice.com/spices/pepp...

                                                As Melanie says, Japanese sansho is the same thing, but I've only seen it preground when it's labeled "sansho." Which doesn't mean whole is not available. Like all herbs and spices, the flavor is richer when you grind or grate from whole peppers, nutmeg, and such.

                                                There is no substitute, but Sichuan peppercorns/sansho can be used in place of black pepper. I love it on sunny side up eggs! Good luck finding it. Most Asian markets will at least have "sansho" (as in already ground), but do read the label to make sure it is pure sansho and not a blend.

                                                15 Replies
                                                1. re: Caroline1
                                                  s
                                                  sr44 Dec 30, 2013 06:04 PM

                                                  And great in creamed onions, although that season may have passed.

                                                  1. re: sr44
                                                    f
                                                    foodster Dec 30, 2013 07:49 PM

                                                    I want to thank everybody for their responses. Unfortunately the recipe I'm making needs to be finished by tomorrow afternoon. If I had the time I would have ordered them on-line. I forget to write where I live. I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There is one good Asian market here. Tai Lin Market. I went there yesterday and they were completely out. I think they will have them in the near future. Part of the recipe I'm preparing has a peppercorn salt which is sprinkled on riblets. The recipe calls for salt, whole black peppercorns, coriander seeds, star anise, white peppercorns and the Sichuan peppercorns. I just added some extra coriander seeds and black peppercorns. Again, thanks for the input.

                                                    1. re: foodster
                                                      t
                                                      travelerjjm Jan 7, 2014 09:12 AM

                                                      I wish I had seen this earlier. I used to get them at Din Ho on Montgomery. Ta Lin is indeed a wonderful market.

                                                  2. re: Caroline1
                                                    k
                                                    kmlmgm Dec 31, 2013 06:29 AM

                                                    That is a beautiful and very user friendly spice website! Thank you for posting a link to it. I love my usual online source for spices, so I won't bad mouth it or mention it, but I do get frustrated with their search features. Does the Worldspice site ever offer free shipping on minimum orders?

                                                    1. re: kmlmgm
                                                      Caroline1 Jan 1, 2014 02:02 AM

                                                      I'm not absolutely certain, but I think I've been ordering from World Spice for close to a decade now and don't really remember any free shipping offers. That doesn't mean there weren't any though. I just like their quality and usually order several things at a time.

                                                      1. re: kmlmgm
                                                        emily Jan 2, 2014 02:41 PM

                                                        They send out free shipping codes every few months in my experience. Sign up for the newsletter.

                                                        1. re: emily
                                                          Caroline1 Jan 2, 2014 04:25 PM

                                                          LOL! I've been avoiding any and all newsletters because I get enough "junk mail" for half of the state of Texas! As many years as I've been buying from them, who knows how much I might hav saved! But I did notice they now have a professional service for chefs. hmmmm....

                                                          Thanks for the info!!!!! I was planning to place an order but maybe I'll sign up and see what happens... :-)

                                                      2. re: Caroline1
                                                        f
                                                        foodieX2 Dec 31, 2013 07:07 AM

                                                        Caroline-have you ever been able to find a promo code for spice world? There are a couple of spices I have been wanting to try but have not been able to find locally. I went to the site and 3 oz of spices worth 6.75 cost more than that to ship. Penzey is the same and I cant justify shipping fees that are more than the product. I was thinking a promo code might soften the blow, LOL

                                                        1. re: foodieX2
                                                          Caroline1 Jan 1, 2014 02:20 AM

                                                          Their check-out page has a place to enter a shipping code, but I have no idea how to get one. When I first began ordering from them, they weren't yet accepting credit cards but would ship my order immediately, along with an invoice and I would send it back with a check for the amount. They didn't know me from Adam, so that sort of blew my mind! Trust is a pretty rare business commodity today.

                                                          And for those who enjoy quality teas, they have a small but very nice selection at pretty good prices. And if you're into things like tea smoked duck, they carry a nice pine smoked lapsang souchong that will do you proud!

                                                          1. re: foodieX2
                                                            thymetobake Jan 7, 2014 04:46 AM

                                                            foodieX2,

                                                            Penzey's does offer free shipping if you order either 25 or 35 dollars worth. Can't remember which. They don't advertise it but I suppose you could email them to see which it is. I often get free shipping.

                                                            I know this post is late but I hope you see it anyway.

                                                            1. re: thymetobake
                                                              f
                                                              foodieX2 Jan 18, 2014 01:54 PM

                                                              thank you!!!

                                                          2. re: Caroline1
                                                            c
                                                            CookingForReal Jan 17, 2014 09:00 PM

                                                            Sansho is not the same. It's closely related - but it doesn't smell the same, taste the same, or look the same.

                                                            I don't know how it might (or might not) be related to the green sichuan peppercorns, but it's not the same as the red ones.

                                                            1. re: CookingForReal
                                                              h
                                                              hyperbowler Jan 19, 2014 12:10 AM

                                                              Sansho are marketed in Chinese supermarkets, and a link somewhere above in this thread, as green Sichuan peppercorns (青花椒). True Sichuan peppercorns (the red things) are a different plant.

                                                              1. re: hyperbowler
                                                                Chemicalkinetics Jan 19, 2014 12:50 AM

                                                                The word 花椒 (Szechuan pepper) actually refers to many plants/fruits, not just the one. On top of that, the word 花椒 has a narrower definition, and a boarder definition. Under the boarder definition, it includes many more than just the red ones. The green one is included, and the brown-yellow one as well.

                                                                Japanese Sansho (山椒) is not the same as Chinese green Szechuan pepper neither (青花椒). Japanese Sansho is Zanthoxylum piperitum. Chinese green Szechuan pepper is Zanthoxylum schinifolium. In other words, the red Szechuan pepper, the green Szechuan pepper and the Japanese Sansho are all different.

                                                                A very valuable one is the brown-yellow ones. It is known as 麻椒 (numbing pepper). As the name implies, its numbing effect is more powerful than the red Szechuan pepper.

                                                                http://www.flickr.com/photos/kattebelletje/2521414511/

                                                                http://www.nipic.com/show/1/55/c70953...

                                                                These are not the green Szechuan pepper.

                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                  h
                                                                  hyperbowler Jan 19, 2014 08:27 AM

                                                                  Thanks--- Can anyone comment on how the flavors differ--I couldn't tell a difference between the taste of green Sichuan peppercorns and ground sansho, but both were different than the red.

                                                          3. eatzalot Jan 6, 2014 09:21 PM

                                                            I hope foodster's original question was answered. I've cooked with this spice (hua jiao) for many years; there is nothing similar. (A problem, in fact, in certain Chinese cookbooks that carelessly substituted other things in Sichuanese recipes.) Ironically, some people here pointed out the palate-numbing effect, which isn't unique to this spice (various seed spices -- nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, allspice -- even celery, exhibit it in various degrees although it is strong in hua jiao); what is unique, and addicting, is the combination of that palate effect with the vivid, enticing citrus aroma of good examples of this spice. If you know only the numbing quality, you may not have experienced a proper sample.

                                                            More details:

                                                            The English nickname "Sichuan peppercorn" is absurd and misleading, with only a rough visual basis. (Here on the Pacific US coast, where by the way it is routinely sold with both husks and kernels, and where I had no trouble getting it during the so-called "ban," Chinese packagers sometimes label it Black Peppercorn or Red Pepper, which is even more misleading.) The real name is hua jiao (or some variant Romanization) or in English, prickly ash. It is a citrus spice.

                                                            Not a type of pepper. Not peppery in character, does not look much like black pepper, and the husk, not the kernel, carries the flavor.

                                                            Standard US Sichuanese cookbooks of the 1970s described how the whole spice tends to be used in long-stewed dishes, while for adding just before serving, it's often toasted and ground. I do either, as appropriate. The inert seed kernel is irrelevant in either case, it does not interfere. More important is to pick out the dried stems, twigs, and other debris that often comes with the spice from China.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: eatzalot
                                                              h
                                                              hyperbowler Jan 7, 2014 11:48 AM

                                                              Some interesting research came out a few months back that discovered what produces the "numbing" sensation in Sichuan peppercorns. The chemical hydroxy-alpha-sanshool apparently produces a false sensation of vibration as it hijacks receptors generally dedicated to mechanical pressure/touch.

                                                              http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/20...

                                                              The tingling type of "numbing" you get from Sichuan peppercorns is different from the dull type of numbing you get from celery, tarragon, and nutmeg. Those items contain eugenol which, in part, is believed to reduce sensitivity in pain receptors. I read up on eugenol after dinner guests said my tarragon pastry, which contained 1/2 lb. of leaves, reminded them of menthol.

                                                              1. re: hyperbowler
                                                                Chemicalkinetics Jan 7, 2014 12:03 PM

                                                                <The tingling type of "numbing" you get from Sichuan peppercorns is different from the dull type of numbing you get from celery, tarragon, and nutmeg. >

                                                                Very well said. The so called numbing/tingling feeling from Szechuan peppers is actually quiet different from the typical numbing effect from other foods. I just had a bowl of Szechuan pepper wonton soup at home. It was very powerful -- I added to much Szechuan peppercorns. :)

                                                                1. re: hyperbowler
                                                                  eatzalot Jan 7, 2014 12:16 PM

                                                                  Thanks for the enlightening info, hyperbowler! That helps explain why the numbing from hua jiao is so concentrated.

                                                                  Eugenol (in natural form "oil of cloves") was a traditional dental topical anesthetic. And still used that way to cause surface numbness (as I was delighted to learn recently, when undergoing a minor dental procedure).

                                                                  "dinner guests said my tarragon pastry, which contained 1/2 lb. of leaves, reminded them of menthol."

                                                                  What might further interest your guests is that tarragon is among culinary herbs containing thujone. Thujone (related to menthol and camphor, and responsible for part of the aroma of sage) was wrongly stigmatized in the 1800s as the cause of supposed health risks from the then-fashionable wormwood liquor absinthe. It was cited in the US ban on absinthe liquors a century ago, which endures at last check in the US FDA "EAFUS" data base as prohibition of wormwood (A. absinthium) products IF they contain any thujone.

                                                                  The absurdity is that by the 1930s when the botanical chemistry was better understood, thujone was found to be in "many essential oils" including sage and tarragon (used for centuries without health problems and listed in the same modern FDA database's highest safety classification). Thujone has about the same toxicity as caffeine. (The problems from absinthe were traced rather to faulty distillation, chemical adulterants, and above all, huge alcohol content.)

                                                              2. r
                                                                Raffles Jan 7, 2014 09:32 AM

                                                                try ..http://www.atlanticspice.com/

                                                                1. k
                                                                  ky_hall Jan 16, 2014 12:00 PM

                                                                  I find the Sichuan peppercorns at Penzy, but unfortunately they don't seem to be as potent as I have purchased before. If anyone has a good link to purchase the very strong ones, I would appreciate.

                                                                  1. f
                                                                    foodster Jan 17, 2014 08:48 AM

                                                                    First of all I want to thank everyone for their comments. On my original thread I didn't mention where I live. I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The recipe I made was an Asian inspired riblet dish that called for a spice rub that contained Sichuan peppercorns. I made the rub without the peppercorns. Luckily my wife and I discovered a great spice shop in Santa Fe. The Savory Spice Shop. They have every spice you could every think of. We bought all the Sichuan peppercorns we'd ever need. We also bought Annatto Seeds for another recipe. Anybody who lives in the Albuquerque, Santa Fe area go see Katy at her shop. She's very knowledgeable and helpful. Again, thanks everybody.

                                                                    1. f
                                                                      Fred Rickson Jan 24, 2014 03:46 AM

                                                                      As a freshly ground table pepper, I mix black pepper, grains of paradise, Sichuan peppercorns at 3:1:1.

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