Peppercorns are the hallmark of Sichuan’s fiery hot cuisine. The spice is known for its tongue-numbing, tingly sensation, and it can be found sprinkled on tofu or boiled in hot pot.
But they’re also really difficult to find in America.
We went to Hanyuan County in Sichuan Province to find the most potent peppercorns and learned how a series of weird import regulations prevented them from reaching the States—until now.
This is the first episode of our fall series In Season, where Clarissa goes out to harvest plants and animals that are hard to find and explains why you can’t get them in the U.S.
We have a huge Asian community here in Houston and I’ve never had a problem finding Sichuan peppercorns.
The first time I ever heard of them was when I was perusing the Penzey’s catalog back in the mid 90’s and there were a couple of paragraphs explaining why they were no longer available.
A couple of weeks later I was at a local Asian market and there were bags and bags of them. I bought 'em, fell in love with 'em and have had them in the kitchen ever since.
I use them in stir fries, in dry rubs and marinades for pork and chicken, etc.
I’ve always wanted to do a hot pot type thing with a ton of them swimming around, but I haven’t done so yet.