Where to buy Sichuan peppercorn?

Discussion in 'Food and nutrition' started by Edwin Eng, Mar 1, 2004.

  1. Edwin Eng

    Edwin Eng Guest

    Help!!

    Does anyone know any places in the NYC area that sells Sichuan peppercorn or know of a website? I've
    searched many asian stores for this, mostly in the Flushing area. And most of the searches comes up
    with UK addresses.

    TIA Edwin
     
    Tags:


  2. Steve Wertz

    Steve Wertz Guest

    On Mon, 01 Mar 2004 22:53:16 -0500, Edwin Eng <[email protected]>
    wrote:

    >Help!!
    >
    >Does anyone know any places in the NYC area that sells Sichuan peppercorn or know of a website?
    >I've searched many asian stores for this, mostly in the Flushing area. And most of the searches
    >comes up with UK addresses.

    Read the recent article in the NY Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/04/dining/04SICH.html

    I'm having trouble getting logged in right now, otherwise I'd quote the article for you.

    It contains suggestions on where to find them, and how to ask for them. Bascially, look and speak
    Chinese when you ask for them, as they're hidden behind the counter.

    -sw
     
  3. In article <[email protected]>,
    Edwin Eng <[email protected]> wrote:

    > Help!!
    >
    > Does anyone know any places in the NYC area that sells Sichuan peppercorn or know of a website?
    > I've searched many asian stores for this, mostly in the Flushing area. And most of the searches
    > comes up with UK addresses.

    There was a thread a while back about this. The answer at that time was "you can't get them
    (legally) because importation isn't allowed". It seems that they can carry some kind of
    citrus disease.

    Is that still true? This seems like a prime candidate for some kind of radiation sterilization...

    Isaac
     
  4. Alzelt

    Alzelt Guest

    Edwin Eng wrote:
    > Help!!
    >
    > Does anyone know any places in the NYC area that sells Sichuan peppercorn or know of a website?
    > I've searched many asian stores for this, mostly in the Flushing area. And most of the searches
    > comes up with UK addresses.
    >
    > TIA Edwin
    >
    Last time I bought any in NY area, it was at Zabars.
    --
    Alan

    "If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might bet-
    ter stay home."
    -- James Michener
     
  5. Steve Wertz

    Steve Wertz Guest

    On Mon, 01 Mar 2004 22:09:04 -0600, Steve Wertz
    <[email protected]> wrote:

    >Read the recent article in the NY Times:
    >
    >http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/04/dining/04SICH.html

    Looks like they archived it and charge $3 for it now. Those bastards.

    Here's the article in it's entirety, just out of spite.

    By Denise Landis

    Fire is a not unfamiliar sensation in food. Cuisines all over the world get a zap from chili peppers
    in dozens of guises. But there's nothing like the numbing sparkle that the food of Sichuan gets from
    the Sichuan peppercorn huajiao, as it is called there.

    "You can" t cook Sichuan food without huajiao,'' said Wang Dinggeng, the chef at Grand Sichuan
    International on Second Avenue in New York. "You can" t get that special ma la flavor,'' he said of
    the peppercorns' numbing (ma) and burning (la) effects.

    But will the tingle be around for much longer?

    Since 1968, the federal government has banned the import of Sichuan peppercorns, which are the dried
    berries of the prickly ash shrub. The Agriculture Department did not really enforce the ban until
    two years ago, and its effort is expected to dry up supplies soon. Or maybe not.

    Some chefs and retailers say that they are unable to find the peppercorns, which are also an
    ingredient of five-spice powder, a common Chinese seasoning. Others say they are selling what was
    stockpiled before the enforcement effort began.

    In the San Francisco Bay Area, some Chinese stores are selling them surreptitiously, and some
    Manhattan shops carry them in unlabeled bags.

    In 1968, the Agriculture Department prohibited the import of all plants and products of the citrus
    family, of which the Sichuan peppercorn is a member, because they could carry a canker that destroys
    citrus trees. The ban was not strictly enforced before a revision of the department's manual for
    field inspectors two years ago, after the canker had begun to devastate citrus crops in Florida. The
    revision specified that the ban applied to Sichuan peppercorns (Zanthoxylum simulans) and the Sansho
    peppercorns (Zanthoxylum piperitum) used in Japanese cooking.

    The canker is caused by bacteria that are harmless to humans but highly contagious among members of
    the citrus family. It is spread by physical contact. There is no known chemical treatment for the
    disease, and both infected trees and those nearby must be destroyed.

    But while it is known that the prickly ash shrub, which grows in China, Japan and North Korea,
    carries the canker, department officials could not point to any scientific study or research that
    showed that the dried peppercorns carried it.

    "Unfortunately, the popular Sichuan peppercorn is banned from import into the United States due to
    its classification in the citrus family," ' Dore Mobley, a spokeswoman for the department's Animal
    and Plant Health Inspection Service, said in a statement. When asked whether there had ever been a
    case of peppercorns contaminating citrus trees since the ban was imposed in 1968, Mobley did not
    point to any.

    "Citrus canker poses a significant threat to not only citrus in Florida, but citrus in California,
    Texas and Arizona as well," ' she said in the statement. "Therefore an across-the-board ban on
    citrus from specific countries known to have the disease is the cornerstone of our efforts to
    protect U.S. agriculture." '

    There is currently no effective treatment including irradiation that would allow peppercorns to be
    imported. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is currently working on a treatment to kill
    the canker. So far, that requires heating the peppercorns, which changes their quality and
    character.

    The peppercorns seem more readily available in the East than in the rest of the country, but baffled
    customers everywhere are looking and not finding them. Because peppercorns have a shelf life of
    several years and the ban has been enforced for about a year and a half, the shortage of peppercorns
    is only now being felt. While some prices have gone up as high as $25 a pound, the peppercorns were
    selling for $4 a pound in New Hampshire this week.

    Bob Pizza, the assistant manager of the Spice House, a small family-run business in Milwaukee, Wis.,
    said that in the fall of 2002, an Agriculture Department inspector confiscated the store's supply of
    the peppercorns, about four or five pounds.

    But Mobley said the inspection service had only 130 inspectors dealing with smuggling and improper
    importation, so not all stocks could be confiscated.

    Finding the peppercorns can be challenging.

    An owner of one of the largest Indian and Middle Eastern food stores in Manhattan, with an extensive
    array of spices, said in a telephone interview that he could not get the peppercorns anymore. But a
    visit to the store found them on the shelf. Clerks at one large grocery store in Chinatown said they
    had none, but they were on the shelf in unlabeled bags.

    When a New Jersey distributor was asked over the phone whether he sold Sichuan peppercorns, he said
    he did. But when the reporter identified herself as a writer for The New York Times, he said he had
    not had nor sold Sichuan peppercorns for many months and did not believe he would have them again.

    A New England food distributor who had a fresh stock of Sichuan peppercorns said she had just gotten
    it from an importer in New Jersey. But the importer said that couldn't be true because Agriculture
    Department inspectors had confiscated his stock of the spice about a year ago.

    In markets in the Chinatowns of the San Francisco Bay Area the peppercorns were hard to find, but
    Sichuan peppercorn powder and oil were on the shelves.

    When a Chinese-speaking reporter went to a large Chinese grocery in Oakland and asked for some, the
    clerk pulled a bag of them from under the counter, saying she would not have sold any to an English-
    speaking customer.

    The peppercorns were on the shelves of a Chinese medicinal store in San Francisco.

    "Well, if you want to buy from a wholesale market, they won" t sell it to you because you are a
    stranger,'' a clerk at the store said. "Even here, I am not selling any to foreigners. I heard it
    took a lot of trouble getting those peppers here." ' After the crackdown, he said, "people basically
    took a lot of trouble transporting them to India and then Mexico and then into the U.S., but I won"
    t tell you the name of the wholesale company.''

    One wholesale company in the Bay Area is apparently continuing to supply regular customers with
    the spice.

    Eric Tucker, the chef at Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco, said he regularly uses Sichuan
    peppercorns and never had trouble finding them in Chinatown.

    But John Zhang, the owner of Grand Sichuan International, said the problem is real.

    "We face the shortage of peppercorn and don" t know what to do,'' Zhang said in an e-mail message
    from China, where he was traveling.

    Martin Yan, the cookbook author and television personality, said it was unlikely that large Asian
    food distributors would import the peppercorns.

    "The peppercorns are inexpensive, and there is little to be gained in taking such a risk," ' he
    said. "They are used in such small quantities that even a pound will last a long time." '

    He said that small quantities of the peppercorns might be sent into the United States by being
    hidden in personal mail.

    Zhang said that some of the peppercorns now being sold are inferior varieties from southern China,
    not Sichuan province.

    Sichuan peppercorns are reddish brown, have a rough texture and often have tiny stems mixed in among
    them. They are sold whole with bitter black seeds in the centers, or (as is generally preferred by
    chefs) cracked open and seeded. They can be found in food markets in Asian communities and where
    Chinese medicines are sold. They are sometimes incorrectly described as flower buds, probably
    because a common name for them is flower pepper. Other names that are often used in Asian markets
    are wild pepper and fagara.

    They can be purchased overseas and in Canada, but anyone trying to bring them into the United States
    could be fined $1,000 for having a prohibited, undeclared, concealed agricultural product.

    Eddie Schoenfeld, a consultant with decades of experience in Chinese restaurants, said that Chinese
    chefs would be unable to cook certain dishes without Sichuan peppercorns, but that they could still
    create many popular recipes in the Sichuan style.

    "It" s as if tarragon became unavailable to the French,'' Schoenfeld said. "They would still be able
    to make bearnaise sauce. It wouldn" t be the same, but it would still be good.''

    Zhang is not so sanguine.

    "If there was not the Sichuan peppercorn any more," ' his e-mail message said, "the Sichuan cooking
    would be definitely hurt." '

    -sw
     
  6. Peter Aitken

    Peter Aitken Guest

    "Edwin Eng" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > Help!!
    >
    > Does anyone know any places in the NYC area that sells Sichuan peppercorn or know of a website?
    > I've searched many asian stores for this, mostly in the Flushing area. And most of the searches
    > comes up with UK addresses.
    >
    > TIA Edwin
    >

    I believe they are embargoed because they may carry a plant disease. I heard this a while ago so am
    not sure if it is still true (or ever was true!).

    --
    Peter Aitken

    Remove the crap from my email address before using.
     
  7. Peter Aitken

    Peter Aitken Guest

    "Steve Wertz" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > On Mon, 01 Mar 2004 22:09:04 -0600, Steve Wertz <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    > >Read the recent article in the NY Times:
    > >
    > >http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/04/dining/04SICH.html
    >
    > Looks like they archived it and charge $3 for it now. Those bastards.
    >

    If you had put time, effort, and money into creating something and wanted to charge people for it,
    would that make you a bastard?

    --
    Peter Aitken

    Remove the crap from my email address before using.
     
  8. Barry Grau

    Barry Grau Guest

    "Peter Aitken" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<Mi11c.40910$%[email protected]>...
    > "Edwin Eng" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    > news:[email protected]...
    > > Help!!
    > >
    > > Does anyone know any places in the NYC area that sells Sichuan peppercorn or know of a website?
    > > I've searched many asian stores for this, mostly in the Flushing area. And most of the searches
    > > comes up with UK addresses.
    > >
    > > TIA Edwin
    > >
    >
    > I believe they are embargoed because they may carry a plant disease. I heard this a while ago so
    > am not sure if it is still true (or ever was true!).

    Citrus canker, if I remember right. Last time this thread came up I poked around on the USDA web
    site and couldnt find any indication that the ban had been lifted. Also, if it remember right, there
    is a way to process them that will let you get around the ban, but it involves grinding them, and
    they lose there flavor very quickly when you do.

    -bwg
     
  9. Kswck

    Kswck Guest

    You might try the Grand Central Market in Grand Central Station. They may have it.

    "Edwin Eng" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > Help!!
    >
    > Does anyone know any places in the NYC area that sells Sichuan peppercorn or know of a website?
    > I've searched many asian stores for this, mostly in the Flushing area. And most of the searches
    > comes up with UK addresses.
    >
    > TIA Edwin
     
  10. Kswck

    Kswck Guest

    Zabars may also have them. Their website wouldn't be helpful tho. They are on Broadway and 50th
    st(or thereabouts).

    "Edwin Eng" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > Help!!
    >
    > Does anyone know any places in the NYC area that sells Sichuan peppercorn or know of a website?
    > I've searched many asian stores for this, mostly in the Flushing area. And most of the searches
    > comes up with UK addresses.
    >
    > TIA Edwin
     
  11. Bruce Katz

    Bruce Katz Guest

    I would go to either chinatown in lower NY or take the No. 7 to Flushing (last stop).

    There are many small stores that have mushrooms etc. displayed in barrels in the front outside.

    The problem is describing to them what you want. They have no Idea what Sichuan pepercorns are and
    unless you know what they call them in Chineese you will have problems.

    Here's what I did.

    Go to a good Sichuan restaurant like Spicy and Tasty or Sichuan Dynasty in Flushing.

    Order a dish with Sichuan peppercorns (from a waiter that speaks english).

    When the dish arrives remove one or two peppercorns and have the waitor write down what it is
    IN CHINEESE.

    Take the paper to various SMALL shops in the neighborhood.

    We hit paydirt after the fourth shop.

    Cost us $1.00 for about 1 cup of Peppercorns.

    Now if I could only find a recipe for the Shrimp dish I had there.......

    Good Luck

    Bruce
     
  12. At

    At Guest

  13. Steve Wertz

    Steve Wertz Guest

    On Tue, 02 Mar 2004 15:00:06 GMT, "Peter Aitken"
    <[email protected]> wrote:

    >"Steve Wertz" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:zMOdnSpkoIwvpdndRVn-
    >[email protected]
    >> On Mon, 01 Mar 2004 22:09:04 -0600, Steve Wertz <[email protected]> wrote:
    >>
    >> >Read the recent article in the NY Times:
    >> >
    >> >http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/04/dining/04SICH.html
    >>
    >> Looks like they archived it and charge $3 for it now. Those bastards.
    >>
    >
    >If you had put time, effort, and money into creating something and wanted to charge people for it,
    >would that make you a bastard?

    $3 for an article that was free 2 weeks ago? Not too long ago, you could buy a paperback novel for
    $3. And that was much more difficult to print/distribute than an online article (which was free when
    it first came out). $3 buys about 3 gigabytes of storage now days.

    -sw
     
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