Chili Garden, Medford--green peppercorn dishes

Took a tip from rosulate about the fresh green peppercorn dishes at this Medford Square spot. In general I like the food here, but thought I’d try this specialty for lunch.

Got the bone-in chicken version, they also make it with beef, catfish filet and frog leg. It’s a fascinating menu item, and not for the faint of heart–it’s loaded up with tons of green peppercorns (that are not really peppercorns but berries from a species of Zanthoxylum aka prickly ash, like the much more common red Sichuan peppercorns) and a broad assortment of multicolored chili peppers. Lots of chopped up hunks of chicken, plenty of green scallion and a broth that is complex with flavor while at the same time it’s, well, punching you in the face. I’m not a spice wimp but this lunch had me sweating a bit and my mouth sure was numb by the end.

The green peppercorns have a fascinating flavor, they seem a lot more delicate than the red, and are almost citrus-y. They also lend an extra crunchy texture to the dish, helping ensure that there’s a lot going on here. The broth is really the star of this though, I was just eating it with a spoon–it’s filled with many layers of flavor.

I did wonder after eating this if the catfish wouldn’t be the way to go. I’m betting that for a protein, some flaky white fish would be the perfect complement here. Anyway, since you don’t see a lot of green peppercorn dishes on menus in these parts it’s worth a shot trying it at Chili Garden in Medford Sq, if you can take the heat.

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There’s a green peppercorn beef at Sichuan Gourmet in Framingham and Sharon (maybe the others as well.) It’s quite good.

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This sounded interesting, so I paid them a visit at lunch time today and ordered the Fresh Green Peppercorn Chicken On Bone. Much to my surprise, there were no green peppercorns! When I complained to the manager and asked where the Fresh Green Peppercorns were, he pointed to the green peppers and said “fresh green peppers” and the pointed to the Sichuan Peppercorns and said “peppercorns”. I don’t think so.

I think I see the green peppercorns in your pic? They are the dark greenish, wrinkled, round things in the middle near the scallions and peppers. Not as many as I got, but they’re certainly there, and they don’t look red to me… pics for reference:

Green
Red
Side by side

In Chinese terminology, green peppercorns are not actually the “fresh” version of the red ones typically used around Boston. They are simply harvested from a slightly different variety (species?) of peppercorn plant, and generally speaking the distinct difference in flavor/aroma can be tasted. (My dad’s family in rural China makes an amazing traditional tea with green peppercorns, so it’s pretty close to my heart.)

Nope, the only thing in there was the Sichuan Peppercorns that I’m very familiar with.

Well, I don’t know what to say. Your pic looks identical to what I received, and what I received was no “lie.” It also looks very different in color from the common red peppercorn. I still think the expectation of “freshness” was the misleading factor here, or possibly you were expecting a greater difference in flavor.

I did realize that I used the wrong photo earlier, so I replaced the link with a more accurate picture of green peppercorns.

But if the food is good, it’s good, isn’t it? If the labeling is faulty, that–so it seems to me–is of secondary concern. If they mean to deceive, that’s one thing. But if a restaurant serves freshly cooked food with ingredients that are available on that day, I wouldn’t fault them for inaccuracy on the menu.

If you look at Rosulate’s picture on Instagram, she clearly got the green peppercorns and so did passing_thru above.

first pic is a close up of your image (brightened for clarity), second is from a Chinese online seller

What I mean is, it’s a question of intent. Did they intend to deceive, or was it a problem of availability or language? I usually eat there when we are in Medford, but I can’t claim to know them very well. But I never had a feeling that they were being dishonest.

The only thing I can say that I know what a Sichuan peppercorn looks like and how it tastes and that’s what I had.

Yes, green Sichuan peppercorns are a type of Sichuan peppercorn. Red ones are another type, and more widely available. But I won’t belabor the point any longer.

Thanks, but why didn’t the manager just say so? There is a lot of difference between Fresh Green Peppercorns and dried green Sichuan Peppercorns. Thanks for the clarifying.

Do you rule out the possibility that the problem was linguistic?

[quote=“Ferrari328, post:3, topic:10782”]
ordered the Fresh Green Peppercorn Chicken On Bone. Much to my surprise, there were no green peppercorns! [/quote]

I guess the “fresh” is a misnomer, though I don’t think it’s with malicious intent, personally. Guess I should have explained better in my original post too.

Haha, I’m not entirely sure what happened here specifically, but the terminology between the three items involved is kind of a mess even in China.

Good news: the thing you’re looking for can be found at Cilantro near Harvard Sq. It’s in a new dish they just rolled out a few weeks ago (with fish, called 藤椒鱼), and early reports are good!

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I got takeout from Cilantro last night and noticed the “Fish Fillet with Green Chili” (or something similar) on the specials board. We had company that is averse to anything but Americanized Chinese, so I couldn’t get it, but was tempted. I also noticed “Sad, sad noodles.” Any idea what they are, rosulate?

Pretty sure those are a type of “liang fen” or mung bean jelly/noodles, typically covered in a vinegary chilli sauce and topped with peanuts and red pepper.

The name apparently comes from the dish being tear-inducing, though whether the origin is a sense of homesickness or just overwhelming spice is disputed.

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Oh, thanks. I’ll see if we can get them vegetarian so my son can share them. He likes bean jelly noodles and spice.

I ordered that dish delivered from Cilantro two days ago, right after reading these posts. The dish sounded too good to pass up – and it was. It was deeply flavored and complex, with a satisfying mouthburn. There’s a lovely textural contrast, as well, between the slices of white fish, bean sprouts, and thinly sliced cucumbers. I highly recommend it. (Cilantro is very good in general and deserves its own thread.)

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold