Sichuan ingredients (SFBA)

New May Wah on Clement has Pixian doubanjiang (broad/fava bean paste), Yibin ya cai (preserved mustard green stems), and green Sichuan peppercorns ( pictured on the right) but their red Sichuan peppercorns ( pictured on the left ) are mild in terms of flavor and numbing power. Does anyone in San Francisco sell a better brand of red Sichuan peppercorns or sell heaven facing chilis?

The bulk red Sichuan peppercorns at Rainbow seem like a good idea, but taste like cardboard.

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Clarissa Wei has a good article about Hanyuan Sichuan peppercorns.

Marina Foods in San Mateo has brown Hanyuan Sichuan peppercorns (also reds from the same brand). The only greens they had were in a gigantic $20 bag, and I didn’t look for where they come from.

The Hanyuan Browns were not as fragrant as some reds I have, but had more buzzing radiating through my mouth. I made five spice powder with these and liked the numbing, but will need to adapt my recipe for other eaters since it was probably intended designed with stale Sichuan peppercorns in mind.

Big fan of Szechuan peppercorn?

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Yes! The numbing part I’ve always found fun, but the flavor is something I’ve only come to appreciate recently, after eating at restaurants that cook with good quality ones. Going from “I don’t like this” to “oh, that’s what it’s supposed to taste like!” makes a big impression. It’s for that reason that I probably have an exaggerated liking of lamb (I’d only has industrial Gyro meat before my 20s ) and stout (vs. skunky pilsners).

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They are certainly unique. I don’t think I like them much before, but have now appreciate their flavor. They are still “new” to me that if I add them to any dish, the resulting dish just seems more interesting. So do you have a particular kind of Szechuan peppercorn which you prefer?

At restaurants I tend to like greens more than reds— fish dishes and some cold meats (fuqi fei pian). The only dishes I’ve made at home that I liked better with greens are one of Fuchsia Dunlop’s cold chicken in spicy sauce dishes (better with fresh chicken, but good use of leftover Costco chicken) and gong bao chicken. Her dan dan noodles and mapo doufu don’t work as well with 100% greens.

Greens pair well with mint chocolates (IMHO), but red or green will waste a good piece of plain chocolate. I’d imagine you could make some killer pickles with the greens.

I’ve been toasting Trader Joes peanuts with red and greens, sometimes sprinkling some extra powder. It’s cheaper and not as salty as the addictive ones available at Asian markets.

I’d love to hear about other uses— the packages are always way too big and no one has organized a group dinner recently for me to share them at.

I am still mostly using the larger red ones (Big Red Gown). Still not experience enough yet.

I haven’t tried chocolate yet, but I have even put a little Szechuan peppercorn at simple things like instinct noodle and toasts just to make them interesting and fun.

Forgot. One more: I often sprinkle Szechuan peppercorn powder on pizza.

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Pizza? Interesting! State bird provisions’ burrata bread is great and has Sichuan peppercorns in the spice mix.

Sunset Supermarket on Vicente in SF has reds, browns (I like the brand they carry), and greens.

New May Wah still carries ya cai, in the dry goods aisles, without expiration dates.

The third from the left (or second from the right) is what I use the most: Big Red Gown

Is the 99 ranch in Daly City too far? The selection at my local one isn’t great, but they might have another brand or two.

Spice Ace in SF’s Fillmore district has red and green varieties. Both are fragrant and good quality. It’s more expensive than at the big Asian markets, but you can sample their current inventory, which is cool since packages are often duds. The next time I need greens, I’ll be getting their $9 container rather than a potentially stale, but larger quantity, package elsewhere in SF.

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Not in the Bay Area, but since verified facing heaven chilies have eluded me, the Mala project just opened up a chop with chillies of four levels of spiciness.

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Whoa, thanks!

I wish I hadn’t just made a batch of chile oil and restocked other ingredients!

Two Golden Strips Chilies (Er Jin Tiao, 二荆条) look pretty cool.

Has anyone read the cookbook Sichuan (China) Cuisine in Both Chinese and English, from the Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine and the Sichuan Gourmet Association?

It seems like there is quite a lot of praise on it.

Anyone tried Big Green brand of red Sichuan Peppercorns? I can’t smell the ones at New May Wah from outside the package and they don’t have a date on them, but they have a deep red color which implies freshness.

Does anyone have any recommendations for places in Chinatown?

China Live wasn’t selling them when they initially opened, but a few of their dishes use them. Is anyone gone by the market area recently and seen them?

As of the last time I looked, six months ago pretty thoroughly, I’ve never seen quality Sichuan peppercorns in Chinatown.

It’s somewhat ironic that while knowledge and appreciation of non-Cantonese Chinese cuisines have increased in Chinatown over the past quarter century, availability of non-Cantonese staples has diminished. Twenty-five years ago there was an outlet of China National Native Produce and Animal By-products Import and Export Corporation on Broadway (and yes, the whole name was on the facade). It was a convenient place to find staples like Sichuan peppercorn. Across the street was a market, Metro Foods, which specialized in Shanghainese products, not only those with long shelf life, but also frozen mud-skipper eel, yellow croaker, beltfish and the like We met a young Shanghainese couple there who periodically drove down from Portland to stock up with goods from Metro. THe largest market in Chinatown then was May Wah, which was a convenient source for regional Chinese products before it pulled up stakes and moved to the Richmond.

When it comes to Sichuan peppercorns, I think some of the Stockton St. merchants got burned for having peppercorns in stock during the import ban (some without even realizing the ban had been put in place) and will have nothing to do with them.