Precision in packaging

Szechuan peppercorns

Sichuan peppercorns, oh yeah! Raven of Made with Molecules after eating them wrote, “There’s a war in my mouth.” They create a riot of numbing and tingling sensations, particularly if you can get relatively fresh ones (i.e. not stale from sitting around in a Whole Foods bulk bin). Raven links to an abstract about the particular anesthetic-sensitive potassium channels inhibited by hydroxy-alpha-sanshool, one of the components of sichuan peppercorns that make them so exciting.

Science aside, we recently found some in a local asian grocery store, and were particularly struck by the packaging. American packaging often has annoying disclaimers about how contents are packed by weight and may have settled. These peppercorns were not only weighed, but the precision of the scale is indicated! If only all packaging was so straightforward. I was going to complain that the package doesn’t say what kind of peppercorns were inside (sichuan peppercorns are not related to other peppercorns) but then realized that the Chinese characters are specific to these “flower peppers” even if the English words are more general. In any case, the reddish husks are recognizable through the bag.

5 thoughts on “Precision in packaging

  1. Hi Lenore,

    The Western Garden book says that species most commonly used, Zanthoxylum piperitum will grow in your zone as a dense shrub or tree, 8-20 ft tall. Might be fun to replace some of your hedges in back so you always have a fresh source


    1. I am very pleased that it’s easily available here in the States. Have you been to Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot? It’s a pleasant surprise dot bite into one of those peppercorns while downing the broth.

  2. Astonished to see this in my "biz" RSS dir….

    Missing my home and home yummies now :)

  3. My wife and I were in Sichuan to get our new daughter last month. They do indeed use a lot of flower peper; especially in "hot pot" which is a sort of giant broth fondue. We werent warned about the flower pepper and it is a bit startling to have your mouth suddenly go numb like a shot of novacain. Wears off fast though.

    A chicken dish was too spicy for our 8 year old, so I tried to order something milder. The waiter took the chicken back to the kitchen and brought back what was clearly the same food, but it was indeed milder. Making it hotter is easy making it milder takes magic. I finally was able to figure out that they rinsed it with broth. The waiter spoke a little english, but he would type my questions in to a translator web site and come back with answer.

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