Sourcing Hua Jiao (Sichuan Peppercorn)

Sichuan peppercorn

Fresh green Sichuan pepper and red chilies for sale in a market in Chengdu

My Favorite Buzz: Sichuan Peppercorn~~

“My mouth is sleeping,” Fong Chong said as she worked her way through a plate of mala-flavored cabbage stir-fry. “But she opens and lets me eat.”

And there you have it in a nutshell, the addictive power of Sichuan pepper.

If there is one taste most closely associated with Sichuan cuisine, it is Sichuan peppercorn, the numbing spice. The bride of the chili pepper in many Sichuan dishes, it is the má—numbing—to chili pepper’s là—spicy hot—in the word málà, which is practically synonymous with Sichuan food. While many cuisines make use of the chili pepper, no other cuisine features Sichuan pepper—which the Sichuanese call hua jiao, or flower pepper, because of its flowery shape when dried—so abundantly and unabashedly.

My daughter Fong Chong came to us straight from Canton (Guangzhou) at age 11, and we assumed that she would shun Sichuan pepper. However, I knew she liked spicy food, so after a couple of months I made that mala cabbage, stir-fried with dried chili peppers and Sichuan peppers. In this case, I used whole Sichuan peppercorns, as it was merely meant to flavor the oil. But I used too much and it was too numbing, even for me.

But not for Fong Chong, even though an initial aversion to Sichuan pepper is understandable if you didn’t grow up with it. It is most definitely an acquired taste. But I have always argued that it’s an acquired taste that quickly turns to an addictive one, as its unique and appealing citrusy smell and flavor far outweigh its tingly feel.

However, it’s important to learn how to eat hua jiao. You don’t put a whole Sichuan peppercorn in your mouth and bite down—unless you’re looking for some anesthesia. It will indeed numb your tongue and mouth, and while that is not totally unpleasant, it is weird. Like the hot sensation of chili pepper, the numbing of Sichuan pepper is detected not by the sensory nerves for taste but by those for touch. Very recent research shows that those Sichuan pepper vibrations are actually about 50 hertz strong, which explains the tingling. So if you see a whole Sichuan peppercorn in a dish, avoid chomping on it. It’s there for flavor only, and a slight buzz. The more appealing way to eat it is ground into tiny chunks or powder.

Sichuan peppercorn

A vendor selling at least nine kinds of Sichuan pepper at Chengdu’s wholesale spice market

If you have had Sichuan food in America during the past few years made the Sichuan way (vs. the Canto way), you probably encountered hua jiao. But this wasn’t always the case  in the U.S., where Sichuan pepper was suspiciously absent from “Szechwan” food for most of its history here. The reason is fairly obvious, since almost all of America’s Chinese restaurants were historically run by immigrants from Canton and other southern China provinces. Their cuisines don’t even make use of chilies, much less Sichuan pepper. Those tastes were just too overwhelmingly bold for their liking, so when they made Sichuan dishes they cut down on the chilies and jettisoned the Sichuan pepper altogether, robbing the food of its kick and, therefore, its true identity.

Another reason “Szechwan” food in America was long missing it mala mojo was that the Food and Drug Administration banned the Sichuan peppercorn from importation from 1968 to 2005, fearing it could carry a citrus canker that could spread to citrus crops. Now that the ban has been lifted, Sichuan pepper has come in with a roar befitting its roar of a taste. Two recent Chinese-food cult figures, Peter Chang and Danny Bowien, have ridden it to fame, and even your local Sichuan restaurant may be going heavier on the ma nowadays.

Sourcing Sichuan Peppercorn
Sichuan peppercorn

Three popular types of Sichuan pepper: fresh green (vacuum packed), dried green and dried red (see the flowers?)

Hua jiao is actually the fruit of a shrub related to the prickly ash that is native to Sichuan. You’ll sometimes see Sichuan peppercorn translated as prickly ash in the U.S. The best is grown in Hanyuan County. As the little berry dries, it spreads open into a flower shape and releases it seeds, which are not eaten. In Sichuan, you find hua jiao in an array of colors, from green to brownish red to bright red, which (contrary to what I previously wrote here) are different species. You also see it freshly picked during some times of the year or freshly vacuum packed, and the Chengdunese make liberal use of the fresh-on-the-vine Sichuan pepper as a garnish.

Everyone seems to have a different opinion about which is more strong and numbing, the green or the red. I feel the green is more intense, but it also just has a different flavor, more fresh and piney than the red. I love it, but I guess we’ll just have to wait for scientists to test the vibrations of the green version alongside the red to see which has the bigger buzz.

Because Sichuan pepper, like all spices, has to be sterilized before it enters the U.S., and because what you get here is often fairly old, not having a big turnover, it often takes on a strong, chemical smell that is not at all like the smell of the freshly dried stuff. Unfortunately, there is no way to know how it smells before you open the package. I would recommend buying Sichuan pepper from a spice shop where you can smell it first.

Premium red Sichuan pepper

Premium red Sichuan pepper direct from Hanyuan County, available in our SHOP

And of course I would recommend buying it from The Mala Project SHOP. We’ve imported both red and green Sichuan pepper, premium grade, with no additives and few twigs and seeds (which are common in lesser-quality hua jiao). From recently harvested Hanyuan County crop, they have the intense aroma, flavor, and numbing sensation Sichuan pepper is meant to have.

Premium green Sichuan pepper

Fresh, premium green Sichuan pepper—distinctly different from red hua jiao—is available in our SHOP

Cooking With Sichuan Pepper

Use whole Sichuan peppercorns as called for in recipes, usually to flavor the cooking oil. In some recipes it’s chopped up roughly with other ingredients as an ingredient or garnish. But mostly, you’ll use it ground into a powder. First, you lightly toast the peppercorns in a dry skillet until very fragrant. Then  grind in a spice or coffee grinder. I usually sift the powder, since some bits of the husk don’t break down well. Like any ground spice, it will lose its punch before long, so don’t store too long. Store extra Sichuan peppercorn in the freezer.

sichuan peppercorn

Heat Sichuan peppercorns in a dry skillet until fragrant and lightly toasted

sichuan peppercorn

After they’ve cooled, grind to a medium-coarse powder in a spice or coffee grinder

sichuan-pepper-3

Sift the powder, leaving the bigger husk bits behind

sichuan peppercorn

Make in small batches and use within a few months

 

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60 Responses

  1. Ana says:

    Hello,

    I had a wonderful meal at a Chinese restaurant in Liverpool (UK), with the most aromatic and refreshing taste of Sichuanese peppercorns. So aromatic and almost citrussy that for a moment I wondered what the spice was. It was fantastic! So I asked if I could buy some. Instead, they kindly gifted me a small pot with a paste that clearly contained peppercorns, but also chillies and some kind of fat. Have you come across this? What is it?

    Thanks,
    Ana

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Hi Ana, I’m not sure what that delicious-sounding paste is. Jiao ma paste is made by crushing Sichuan peppercorns with scallions and oil. This sounds like a similar paste made with chilies, perhaps their own recipe for a mala paste. Have you cooked with it? Perhaps they used green Sichuan pepper, which has an even more citrusy/piney taste than red. Yum!

      • Ana says:

        Yes, quite possibly. I’ll definitely look out for the green peppercorns – thanks for the tip.

        • sub says:

          prickly oil is also very good to give more “má” to your dish
          http://img4.hostingpics.net/pics/1596921768P1362153587232.jpg

          From my experience, store bought peppercorns are always disappointing, not very fragrant and numbing

          If you want to grow them, these are the species to look for:
          Sichuan pepper: Zanthoxylum bungeanum Maxim.
          Japanese green pepper: Zanthoxylum piperitum DC.

          • Taylor Holliday says:

            So true! While I don’t love store-bought chili oil, Sichuan-produced “prickly oil” (Sichuan pepper oil) is the bomb. I use that same brand all the time.

            I also agree with you about store-bought Sichuan pepper. The exported product is often old by the time we buy it and (in the U.S.) always irradiated, which changes the flavor. You told me by email that your own Sichuan pepper tree is growing quite well in Belgium. Who would have thought? I’m going to try to grow one in Nashville now that I know that. Please link to a picture of your tree here so others can see it and be jealous. Thanks!

  2. Chris says:

    Where can you order fresh green on the vine peppercorns? I have not been able to find jt

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Hi Chris,
      They are abundant in Sichuan (where I bought the ones pictured), but I have never seen them in the U.S., even in large Chinese supermarkets. I doubt anyone is importing them (yet). 🙁

  3. Chris says:

    I went to a restaurant in California where they had some pao cai. In the pao cai I could see they used fresh ones still on vine.

    Maybe smuggled illegally? 🙁

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Interesting! With the explosion of interest in Sichuan food, more ingredients are becoming available every day. Perhaps you can get fresh Sichuan pepper in California now. Or, as you said, perhaps they have direct connections.

  4. sub says:

    Taylor Holliday: “I also agree with you about store-bought Sichuan pepper. The exported product is often old by the time we buy it and (in the U.S.) always irradiated”

    About that, I’ve read a comment from Fucshia Dunlop on egullet.org
    fiore: “your tongue only numb for 5 minutes?! with some of the stuff I’ve tried it’s more like 15 or 20 (gradually diminishing)”

    In his book Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A sweet-sour memoir of eating in China we can read this:

    https://books.google.be/books?id=sQchAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA225&lpg=PA225&dq=baby+tribute+pepper&source=bl&ots=YreHhBkzQY&sig=lNiNlbr3iGEDqcaafe5FfZxm7mM&hl=fr&sa=X&ei=kgotVfnYFoqu7Aa_3oGIDQ&ved=0CEkQ6AEwCg#v=onepage&q=baby%20tribute%20pepper&f=false

    “In all my years of research for my Sichuanese cookery book, I never actually saw a Sichuan pepper tree. For that, you have to go to the high, dry slopes of various places in northern and western Sichuan. But of all the pepper grown in the province, none is better than that of the remote county of Hanyuan in the southwestern mountains, and within Hanyuan County itself, nothing compares to the sumptuously aromatic pepper of Qingxi Township. Even within Qingxi there are finer distinctions for aficionados: if you want to reach the very pinnacle of peppery perfection, you must accept nothing less than pepper harvested from the trees of niu shi po, the Ox Market Slopes, at the village of Jianli just outside Qingxi itself. Once, this pepper was sent in tribute to the imperial court. ‘Qingxi Tribute Pepper’, they still call it here.

    ‘This area produces about ten tonnes of pepper a year,’ said our guide, as we surveyed the prickly trees and the snow-blurred terraces of the valley. ‘And it’s the finest of all. They call the tribute pepper wa wa jiao, “baby pepper”, because each pair of peppercorns also has a pair of tiny, embryonic peppercorns, or “babies” (wa wa) at its base.’

    “A video where you can see the wawa Huā Jiāo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eb63OdnvKDE
    and another of the harvest: https://youtu.be/0yTA3IB1Flo

    According to the analysis of physical and chemical agriculture Sichuan University it has an aromatic oil content of 7-9%, much higher than other domestic origin (aromatic oil content of 3-5%)

    Taylor Holliday: “You told me by email that your own Sichuan pepper tree is growing quite well in Belgium. Who would have thought? I’m going to try to grow one in Nashville now that I know that. Please link to a picture of your tree here so others can see it and be jealous. Thanks!”

    http://img11.hostingpics.net/pics/36280115aout2014.jpg
    http://img11.hostingpics.net/pics/666546february2015.jpg
    spring is here 😀
    http://img11.hostingpics.net/pics/252817simulans13avril2015.jpg

    For those who wants to learn more, here’s some usefull links:

    http://gernot-katzers-spice-pages.com/engl/Zant_pip.html
    http://baike.so.com/doc/5372622.html
    http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs035/1102506082274/archive/1104323477745.html
    http://dunagiri.org/herb-cultivation/tejbal
    http://www.huajiao.cn/news/种植技术/
    http://www.plantphoto.cn/species?species=6871

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      More great video! I now know the next thing I’m going to try to get my daughter to translate for me. 🙂

      And your tree looks amazing! How many years does one take to bear fruit?

      I did see a stray Sichuan pepper tree once in the countryside outside Chengdu, but I have never been to Hanyuan. Thanks for the reminder about Fuchsia’s research on it. And all the other great resources.

  5. sub says:

    And do you know this dish ?

    花椒叶粑粑的做法 a Sichuan delicacy with the young pepper leaves : https://youtu.be/1g80d8-nzT4?t=27m30s

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Wow! I wish my French wasn’t so rusty. That is Sichuan pepper leaves that she is deep-frying? So cool. I’ve never seen that. I wonder how strong/numbing they are? You should try it with your leaves and let us know!

  6. sub says:

    Yes, it’s the young Sichuan pepper leaves deep fried like a tempura.

    I’ve tried with the leaves from my Zanthoxylum Schinifolium (those from my Zanthoxylum Simulans don’t have a distinctive smell) they are not numbing but very fragrant, the smell is very similar to the prickly oil.

    http://img15.hostingpics.net/pics/559599270420158851.jpg

    http://img15.hostingpics.net/pics/196831270420158859.jpg

    i’m dissapointed, it’s it’s more or less tasteless. once fried.

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      They look good! It’s an interesting experiment, even if a bit disappointing. Thanks for letting us know.

  7. Michael says:

    Unlike the case of “true” pepper, from the genus Piper, where green peppercorns are indeed the unripe seed pods that when ripe produce black and white pepper, “Green Sichuan pepper” (青花椒) isn’t the unripe pod of red Sichuan pepper (花椒), it’s from a different species in the prickly ash genus.. Wikipedia has an English-language page for the genus Zanthoxylum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zanthoxylum) which lists quite a few related plants that share the “ma” flavor to various degrees, as well as a Chinese-language page specifically for 青花椒.

    I’ve been shopping for Chinese foodstuffs for many years, but only recently have come across Green sichuan pepper in local grocery stores here in NYC. But as it sometimes the case, when it rains, it pours, and I’ve recently seen several different brands of green Sichuan pepper in Flushing Queens’ Chinatown, and also on several retailers’ websites. Commercially prepared infused oil made from green Sichuan pepper seems to be even more common, for what that’s worth. Happy hunting!

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Thanks for you comments. I’ve been told in Sichuan that green and red hua jiao are the same plant at different stages of ripeness, but it makes sense that they would be different plants/species. I wonder why in Sichuan you see only fresh green Sichuan pepper on the vine and never fresh red…

  8. sub says:

    Hi,

    I’ve tried a very potent brand from China as good as the fresh pepper.

    http://i05.c.aliimg.com/img/ibank/2014/928/513/1820315829_2121159850.jpg

    The Hanyuan pepper 汉源贡椒 is on the China GI product list, look for the brands with the logo
    http://img15.hostingpics.net/pics/724460Chinesegeographicalindicationprotectionlistlogo.jpg
    http://img15.hostingpics.net/pics/447090hanyuanhuajiao.jpg

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Thanks for the tip, Sub! I haven’t seen this brand in the U.S. yet but will be on the lookout. I’ve noticed that specific brands of things come in waves. Whatever the importers are bringing in during that period will be on the shelves of Chinese stores across the U.S., then suddenly they’ll be replaced by some new brands.

      Also, I have some huajiao brought back from Chengdu that’s been in my freezer for a year and a half but is still super potent. So I suggest storing it in the freezer.

  9. Jeff says:

    I have a couple questions regarding Hua Jiao (Sichuan Peppercorn).

    In some texts I see that only the husk is used, and the black seed inside the husk is discarded. In some texts it’s the opposite. In some, the entire peppercorn is used – husk and seed alike. What is your experience in using hua jiao? What is the most common use? Thanks, Jeff

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for your great question. The seed pod of hua jiao, which literally means flower pepper, usually “flowers,” or opens up, when dried and releases that black seed. It is the seed pod, or husk, itself that is eaten. Processors apparently sift the seeds out, but there are always a few remaining in a batch of Sichuan pepper—and usually some small twigs as well. I usually pull out the biggest twigs by hand but don’t worry too much about either them or the seeds. After roasting and grinding, I do sift out the yellow bits of the husk that don’t break down well.

    • sub says:

      Hi Jeff,
      I Always remove the seeds if I found some, I hate the grit.

      A machine used to remove the seeds
      http://img15.hostingpics.net/pics/747146871.jpg

  10. Jeff says:

    Where to buy hua Jiao pepper plants:
    I am growing two beautiful hua jiao plants – I purchased one plant from each of the two following nurseries: http://www.bayflora.com/ Szechuan Pepper will be a link in the left side menu. It came as a tall, thin, healthy stalk with a great root system. The second location is https://www.nicholsgardennursery.com on this site, enter Zanthoxylum in the search box. This was delivered as a short, multi-stalk bush. Delivered a little dry, but reasonably healthy with a good root. Seems to be growing well.

  11. Spike says:

    So I was running out of my first batch of red Sichuan peppercorns I bought many years ago, and decided to splurge on some proper ingredients this weekend. Fortunately there are several well-stocked Asian grocery stores in my town, and I was able to get both green peppercorn, Pixian douban jiang (qinglin brand? It said Pi county on the label) and prickly ash oil. Yesterday I made Dan Dan noodles, and was a bit underwhelmed. Even after making my own chili oil it just did not seem to have the same kick as before. I tried the fiery beef today, and it was quite a difference maker. Less of the intense chili heat on the back of the mouth and more of the lip and tongue numbing ma la. Can hardly wait to do the water boiled beef with the proper broad bean paste.

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Hi Spike,
      Did you go to Great Wall? The one in Duluth is the best Chinese supermarket I’ve ever seen in the U.S. I wish I could get to Atlanta more often.

      Don’t quite understand your comments on the dishes. Did your new Sichuan peppercorns taste markedly different than the old ones?

      • Spike says:

        I went to Buford Highway Farmers Market – it’s huge and has a lot of large specialty sections (Eastern European, Hispanic, Caribbean, separate Japanese, Chinese, etc.) so it’s a bit more useful to me as I cook in a variety of styles. The green peppercorns do taste markedly different than the red to me. It just seemed that frr some reason the actual ma la effect varied so much between recipes. I got some red ones (“Dragon brand dried capsicum”) and I make dan dan noodles all the time so I’ll see if it makes a difference. Time for some new recipes here btw – I need some more things to try! 🙂

        • Taylor Holliday says:

          Oh, I know it well. Love BHFM!

          I do indeed need to add some new recipes. I’ve plenty to work on, just no time. Will try to get back to it soon!

  12. Chris says:

    Whenever I eat Sichuan food in a restaurant in California, and order la zi ji or others, their dishes are extremely numbing.

    Whenever I buy “hua jiao” or even “hua jiao you” in stores for recipes calling for “Sichuan peppercorns”, they are disappointingly not as numbing.

    Then I learned there is “hua jiao” and “ma jiao”. What is the difference between these? Are they different species of peppercorns? Are “ma jiao” and not “hua jiao” used in numbing dishes such as “kou shui ji”

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Hi Chris,
      Hua jiao is the Sichuan name for Sichuan pepper, and means flower pepper. Ma jiao just means numbing pepper. They are the same thing. There are different species of Sichuan pepper, but I’m guessing yours were weak because they were just too old. By the time they are imported here and sit on the shelves awhile, they can lose a lot of their potency. They also sometimes take on a weird chemical smell. I would recommend buying Sichuan pepper from a spice store that has a lot of turnover and guarantees their freshness. Or at Asian markets, look for bright colored ones with a recent production date (which is usually printed on the package somewhere). It can make a huge difference.

  13. sub says:

    Another link with differents names and growing area of the Sichuan pepper :

    http://shop.bytravel.cn/tc/huajiao.html

  14. Rob says:

    I have been buying the vacuum packed green Sichuan peppercorns from Hong Kong Supermarket on the corner of Hester and Elizabeth Streets in New York’s Chinatown, and they are by far the best quality I have found outside of China. They have made a marked improvement in my dishes. I won’t be buying the stale tasting conventionally bagged or jarred ones again.

    Incidentally, the same store also has Sichuan “Facing Heaven” dried peppers at the moment — but they seem to be going fast and they didn’t have too many left on the shelves when I was there yesterday.

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Hi Rob,

      Do you mean the vacuum-packed fresh green pepper, as shown in my photos? Or dried? I’ve never seen the fresh here.

  15. Rob says:

    Sorry, these are not fresh as in “just picked,” but rather “fresh” in the sense that they are dried but vacuum packed such that they are quite fragrant and not at all stale.

  16. Alan says:

    Hi Taylor,

    Discovered your site over the weekend and am beyond elated to connect with a like minded group of devotees to Mala and the incomparable delights of authentic Sichuan cuisine! I am a non-Asian guy (Eastern & Western European heritage) who married into an amazing and wonderful Chinese-American family in which sharing/teaching the art and technique of fine, authentic regional Chinese cooking here in the US has been a ongoing tradition for well over 60 yrs. My in-laws authored/co-authored & published several successful Chinese cookbooks beginning in the late 60’s with “An Encyclopedia of Chinese Food and Cooking” (first edition 1970 Crown Publishers, https://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Chinese-Food-Cooking/dp/0517506610) now long out of print despite over 20 some-odd printings I believe. And so I have been beyond fortunate to receive an excellent education in that other love of my life 😉

    My father-in-law, now a remarkably healthy and vital 98 yr old man who still swims ~600 meters almost every day (!!!), recently authored and self-published another unique volume titled “Chinese Cooking Along the Grand Canal”. Not pitching here, just proudly sharing… My wife inherited her parents’ culinary talents and from the time we began dating in the early 70s I was mentored by them as well

    That said, I am not the least bit ashamed to admit I am addicted to Mala! haha Your site is an amazing find and what a great community of fellow aficionados of the indescribable joys of Sichuan cooking. We live in NJ about an hour south of NYC and I appreciated one of your other commenters having shared his go-to source for vacuum packed dried green Hua Jiao peppercorns.

    Somehow we are also fortunate to have a smallish, rather unassuming authentic Sichaun restaurant not far from our home (15 to 20 mins!) that while small and offering a somewhat limited menu does it right day in and day out. The owner, his wife and we have become friends over the time we’ve frequented their modest establishment, and frequent is definitely the right term there! lol Kind of a standing joke among us all but I know they greatly appreciate the fact that WE appreciate them and their consistently outstanding creations.

    Not to go on ad nauseum here, just could not resist expressing my delight at finding your terrific site. Xiè xie nǐ!

  17. Pamela says:

    In Japan, we use lots of young green Sichuan peppercorns and young leaves in cooking, but only in the green immature state. The plant grows all over japan and I have 2 in my yard.

    The very young leaves are enjoyed fresh as a topping on food in the spring time. They are not cooked but eaten “raw”.

    Here are some samples:

    #1
    You can see the young green Sichuan peppercorns in with the slightly dried tiny fish.
    This is eaten with rice at breakfast and is really yummy. This is called “chirimen jyako”.
    http://www.yayoi-ojako.co.jp/

    #2
    You can see the young leaves called “ki no me” in a box, for sale
    http://temaeitamae.jp/mart/Jg/herb/902.html

    #3
    In the spring, Sichuan pepper leaves are collected and used on springtime dishes. Here you can see lots of examples. These young leaves are called “Ki no Me” in Japanese. In the spring time, even small supermarkets will sell small packets of the leaves so that housewives can decorate their springtime dishes.
    https://snapdish.co/search/%E6%9C%A8%E3%81%AE%E8%8A%BD

    We can also get the ripe, red Sichuan peppercorns that are used in Chinese cooking. I am going to get more of the spices you recommend. Your recipes are awe inspiring!

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Thanks, Pamela, for this great addition to the Sichuan pepper discussion. My readers are so knowledgeable!

      Can you eat those whole green peppercorns? They must be pretty mild. The red and green in China are different species, so the green in Japan is probably yet another species. Do the ones in your yard actually turn red at some point?

      Apparently some Chinese eat the leaves too, as another reader here once commented. When he tried eating some, he said the taste was very mild.

  18. sub says:

    Hi Taylor,

    The green peppercorn can be eaten early when the seed inside is not yet formed.

    The pepper used in Japan is Z. piperitum ( there is 5 subspecies) for commercial
    harvesting, thornless varieties called the Asakura sansho (Z. piperitum DC. var. inerme Makino)
    are widely cultivated.

    http://www.asakurasansyo.info/

    https://www.japanhoppers.com/en/features/food/323/

  19. Paul Winalski says:

    I had bought some Sichuan peppercorns at Posharp, but in true Yankee fashion I decided to use up the tired old peppercorns I had from the local Chinese grocery. But when I made I made Zi Ran Yang Rou the other day, I tossed the old peppercorns. What a difference the fresh ones made! The flavor, fragrance, and especially the numbing quality were all much stronger. Freshness really, REALLY makes a difference with Sichuan pepper.

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Freshness DOES make a huge difference. And if you think those peppercorns are fresh and potent, you should try ours! (Yes, that’s self-promotional, but it’s true. 🙂 )

      Glad you experienced how the food’s supposed to taste!

  20. Keith P. says:

    I’ve been trying to replicate some recipes from a local Sichua place in Houston with peppercorns I pick up at the Asian supermarket. I guess they’re of lower quality, because it never has the zing of the restaurant…it’s like an order-of-magnitude difference, no matter how much I use.
    It could also be that I’m not toasting it (cooking it in oil), but I definitely need to try some higher quality peppercorns.

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Yep. The original quality and the freshness both play a huge role in the numbing power, fragrance and taste. I seriously want to make ours at The Mala Market into a perfume, they smell so good.

  21. sub says:

    For the first time I’ve found green sichuan pepper in my asian store and I didnt like it !

    Tasted Really piney, close to turpentine oil :/

    https://world.tmall.com/item/44963826817.htm#detail?

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Oh, Sub, you can’t mean that! I’m assuming you got some bad stuff. Green hua jiao is amazing. I may even like it better than red…. You should try ours. But since you’re in Belgium and can’t, maybe you should plant a green pepper tree to go with your red one so you can try the fresh stuff. 🙂

  22. sub says:

    I’ve already a green sichuan pepper tree at home (Z. schinifolium) the taste is very citrusy & numbing, I love it !

    • Taylor Holliday says:

      Oh, I get it. You were referring specifically to the one you bought at the market. Yes, they can be quite chemical-like, depending on grade, age and treatment of the peppercorns.

  1. February 12, 2016

    […] this article for details of how to source and prepare Sichuan peppercorns for […]

  2. September 12, 2016

    […] cuisine where eggplants are stir fried with a sauce made from fatty pork mince, salted fish and Sichuan peppercorns. Eggplants usually are delicate in flavour but adding Sichuan peppercorns gives it a unique numbing […]

  3. March 8, 2017

    […] once wrote a detailed post on sourcing Sichuan peppercorns (read it if you haven’t already). The problem is, the Sichuan peppercorns in most Asian grocery […]

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Do you love Sichuan food and cooking as much as we do?

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive notice of new recipes and articles from the blog as well as occasional news and promotions from The Mala Market, our Sichuan specialty food shop. (An average of two emails total per month.)

 

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Thank you!

Taylor & Fong Chong