HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >

Discussion

Sichuan Peppercorns & Chili Bean Paste in East Bay? SF?

I just moved to Berkeley from Boston and have been looking for some ingredients for Chinese cooking. The really cool Sichuan Chili Bean Paste uses Broad (Fava) beans rather than soy beans, but I suppose I'd settle for the soy bean type.

I tried 99 Ranch and several groceries in Oakland Chinatown and could not find either the peppercorns or the good Sichuan bean paste. Maybe I just overlooked them but my wife who speaks Mandarin was with me and we asked clerks at all the groceries; none could find them. My guess is that these groceries serve a Chinese population that is not from Sichuan and is not so driven to get the authentic ingredients--all my Chinese relatives marvel that I bother to cook spicy hot pot stock from scratch, they all use pre-mixed stocks.

Anyway do you have any ideas about where I might get these ingredients? I had no trouble obtaining them in Boston, so with the huge Chinese and foodie populations here I'm assuming there are a bunch of places I can go to (SF? Peninsula?). Bonus points if you can suggest a place close to Berkeley where I live.

Thanks!

Cambridger

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Here's a thread from a few months ago on where to find Pixian type that is made with broad beans (favas).
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/967102

    4 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Wow thanks, that's really helpful, guess I will have to go back to Ranch 99 in Richmond and look more closely. Presumably if they have the good bean paste they also have the Sichuan peppercorns and I'm just going to have to be persistent in tracking them down.

      Thanks!

      Cambridger

      1. re: Cambridger

        New May Wah on Clement in SF has it. Selection varies with stock. I've seen paper-wrapped jars, foil pouches etc. I've seen foil pouches at Sunset Super too.

        1. re: Cambridger

          Please do give us an update if things have changed. It was pretty cool to see how many Sichuan cooking afficionados we have among our Bay Area online community.

          I noticed that this is your first post here, so wanted to point you to Chowhound's Home Cooking board if you want to talk about what you're planning to make. Here's the search result for "Sichuan" on that forum,
          http://www.chow.com/search?q=sichuan&...

        1. I bought a package of Sichuan Peppercorns at 99Ranch in Richmond (East Bay) just a few weeks ago. They were on a very high upper shelf in the spice section.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Joel

            ... and the package at 99Ranch was labeled "Prickly Ash" -- with a small parenthetical "peppercorn" with no mention of Sichuan. They were cheap and relatively dry, so I imagine there are better quality ones available.

            1. re: Joel

              Oaktown spice shop in Lake Merritt has decent red ones sold in small ziploc bags (I asked about green and they said there's not enough demand and the ones they've got have been poor quality)

              I don't know their quality but Rainbow Grocery in SF has them in their bulk section

          2. Lhasa Karnak
            Pepper, Szechuan Zanthoxylum piperitum OG
            1 oz. - $3.00
            4 oz. - $12.00
            8 oz. - $21.00
            16 oz. - $39.0

            3 Replies
            1. re: wolfe

              For some reason I always forget Lhasa Karnak sells herbs and spices, I only think of their medicinal herbs, oils and tinctures. They just moved their Shattuck Ave branch into the bigger corner space.
              I do think there is something to buying the Sichuan peppercorns from a spice importer. Those I've gotten from Oakland Spice Shop and Rainbow Grocery have been much fresher and more fragrant than the prepackaged ones I've gotten from Chinese groceries.

              1. re: wolfe

                I love getting both spices and herbal teas at Lhasa Karnak. They are always quite fresh. And actually, parking during the day is easy thanks to meters.

                1. re: wolfe

                  Interesting, a lookup of genus species name says this is Japanese prickly ash, not quite the same as Chinese species which are Z. bungeanum, Z. simulans. I wonder if there is much taste difference.

                  I agree with the other posters that the stuff at the Asian markets may not be very fresh (labeled "prickly ash" not "Szechuan peppercorn"). I bought a little packet yesterday at Oaktown Spice and the aroma was much better.

                2. I can give you some Sischuan peppercorns. A Chinese friends husband travels regularly to China for business and she gave me some good quality green and red peppercorns. I think I will be eating at Ajanta next Friday at 7:30 so if you can meet me there I will give you some free of charge.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Ridge

                    Cambridger, I suggest you take Ridge up on his generous offer--- The ones he handed out at a Chowdown were as good as you'll find at any restaurant in the Bay Area and leagues better than anything I've purchased here except for a brand at Marina food in San Mateo.

                    1. re: Ridge

                      Ridge, I would love to take you up on this! If your plans firm up for Ajanta on Friday that would be perfect, it's in my neighborhood and my wife and I like the place.

                      Cambridger

                      1. re: Cambridger

                        We have reservations for 7:30 Friday. I will wear a Grateful Dead t-shirt.

                        1. re: Ridge

                          excellent, I will probably be in to order take-out, will look for you then.

                          Cambridger