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Rare Sighting -- Sichuanese cooking ingredients for sale in Pattaya


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OK, for as long as I've been here it's been possible to buy grown in Thailand Sichuan peppers that taste nothing like actual Chinese Sichuan peppers.

 

Before Chinese restaurants have told me that basic Sichuan products such as actually good tasting Sichuan peppers and Sichuan Doubanjiang are not even sold in Bangkok. 

 

The better Chinese restaurants have been importing their own directly from China but of course with the pandemic travel restaurants that's less realistic for the Chinese restaurants still open. 

 

But now for the first time that I've seen in Pattaya, you can now buy:

 

Sichuan Doubanjiang (100) Jingsha brand

Doubanjiang | Broad Bean Paste(豆瓣酱) | China Sichuan Food

 

and

 

Sichuan Pepper OIL (180) Xiang Wang brand

 

and

 

Bags of oily fixings for making Sichuan hot pots (a milder and a spicier version on offer)

 

They're at a fairly new small Chinese grocery on Pattaya 2nd road, South Pattaya, close to Indigo Indian restaurant on the same side of the street.

 

No English is spoken in the store and there aren't English labels on the products.

 

They also sell some sad looking Sichuan peppers in a clear bottle that are made in Thailand for 80 baht. I didn't even bother to buy that but I wanted to smell them to see if they might be surprisingly OK but not practical to open the bottle. 

 

So far I've only tried the Sichuan pepper oil in a spicy cold noodle chicken cucumber noodle salad and it was definitely the real deal. 

 

You can use this oil as a dip for many different kinds of foods, doesn't even need to be Chinese. 

 

Sichuan pepper oil is a different experience than fresh Chinese Sichuan peppers but still quite good. I once visited an excellent Sichuan restaurant in the U.S. that weirdly didn't use any actual peppers (which are easily available there), only oil. I asked them about it and they said they were concerned about lawsuits because there have been incidents of customers choking to death on the actual dried peppers.  (In case you don't know Sichuan peppers are not actually peppers and they're are not "hot" like actual peppers. They have their own special flavor, aroma, and are most famous for the "numbing" feel they give in the mouth.)

Edited by Jingthing
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1 hour ago, Jingthing said:

I asked them about it and they said they were concerned about lawsuits because there have been incidents of customers choking to death on the actual dried peppers. 

Sichuan pepper is 花椒 right? Those things are about 2-3mm across, an adult would have to really make a special effort to choke to death on one...

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1 hour ago, onebir said:

Sichuan pepper is 花椒 right? Those things are about 2-3mm across, an adult would have to really make a special effort to choke to death on one...

Yeah well I do recall seeing a report of that happenning in the press years ago but I can't find it. They are dry with protrubances so perhaps if you swallowed a bunch of those at once? 

 

As far as that restaurant it was gourmet level and they had an excellent chef but they were mostly catering to non Chinese Americans that might have been unfamiliar with the texture of the real peppers. It was also their style to more be refined and elegant. So that may have been the real reason they only used oil.

 

In any case I only ate their once because there were other good places that used the actual peppers which is my strong preference. It was also overpriced and pretentious.

 

But as I've said you can't buy decent fresh Sichuan peppers in Pattaya or even Bangkok as far as I know. So oil it is!

Edited by Jingthing
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What the heck. I think it's time to share my spicy chicken salad recipe which is actually more Hunan than Sichuan in origin. 

My new version is the first time I've used anything Sichuan in it. and although it's not necessary, it was great.

 

Make the "dressing"

 

Measurements by taste and feel

 

Natural chunky 100 percent peanuts peanut butter (lots of it)

Chinese rice wine (can buy at Big C)

Jasmine rice vinegar

Sesame oil

Lee kum kee chili garlic sauce (can buy at Central Food Hall, Friendship, etc.)

dried Thai chili powder

Soy sauce (I use light version)

Cold chicken broth (if you have it, optional)

Sichuan pepper oil (if you have it, optional)

 

Mix well. Yes there is lots of liquid.

 

Cook Thai rice noodles, medium width.

Drain to colander and pour lots of cold water over it.

 

Mix the noodles with the "dressing" well.

 

Add sliced cucumbers.

Add sliced precooked cold poached chicken.

Add chopped scallions.

Mix well. 

 

Lots of ingredients, yes, but once you've stocked your kitchen for this, it's super easy and quick to put together.

Edited by Jingthing
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2 hours ago, onebir said:

Sichuan pepper is 花椒 right? Those things are about 2-3mm across, an adult would have to really make a special effort to choke to death on one...

 

those wee, tiny peppercorns give the 麻 ma flavor.  tingly numbing sensation like novacaine.  won't choke to death on one, or even a handful, but some people may be more sensative.  too much makes your face go numb, a bit more can make breathing difficult.

 

 

sichuan-pepper.jpg

 

but i think the doujiang uses sichuan chili peppers.  not really spicy, more like a dry citrusy flavor.  you can deep fry 'em and eat 'em like french fries.

 

91dqArJqKbL._SL1500_.jpg

 

 

 

 

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7 minutes ago, ChouDoufu said:

 

those wee, tiny peppercorns give the 麻 ma flavor.  tingly numbing sensation like novacaine.  won't choke to death on one, or even a handful, but some people may be more sensative.  too much makes your face go numb, a bit more can make breathing difficult.

 

 

sichuan-pepper.jpg

 

but i think the doujiang uses sichuan chili peppers.  not really spicy, more like a dry citrusy flavor.  you can deep fry 'em and eat 'em like french fries.

 

91dqArJqKbL._SL1500_.jpg

 

 

 

 

I'm not saying it's common. But I do think it has happened. Of course I think it's a silly reason not to use them. I'm sure many many more people choke from steaks and bony fish and nobody is banning those things.

 

Yes in the classic Sichuan MALA, the MA is from the Sichuan peppers and the LA is from hot chile peppers. Those flavors blend very well. 

 

If you are at a Chinese restaurant and you want more chili heat, you can ask for LA. 

Edited by Jingthing
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Classic Sichuan normally blends two flavors 麻(ma)and 辣(spicy). Please note that the Chinese word for anesthesia is 麻醉, so you can imagine what's going on with the flavor 麻. Not really spicy but more like completely numbing your tongue, haha. 

 

Now there are two places well known for 火锅(hot-pot)one is 四川省(Sichuan Province)the other is 重庆市(Chongqing City), which in the past used to be a part of Sichuan but nowadays is sort of a province by itself (meaning that is governed directly by the Central Government, together with Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin). Both cities speak a very similar dialect (四川话)but there are certain differences. And the same is true for hot-pot. 

 

Sichuan people prefer a hot-pot soup in which you can really feel the spicy. Whereas Chongqing people prefer a hotpot in which you can feel the 麻(ma) more than the 辣(spicy). Which is probably why 重庆火锅(Chongqing Hotpot)are more famous in the west and 四川火锅(Sichuan Hotpot)is more famous inside China. 

 

 

When it comes to the oil, many hotpot places here in Thailand do not use the real oil, use a rather synthetic one (fake if you will, lol). For example, last time in Pattaya we tried a hotpot which is right next to Terminal 21 (completely forgot the name)  it was rather expensive and used a fake synthetic oil.  In Bangkok I would undoubtedly recommend 8豆火锅(8 Bean Hot Pot) in Huay Khwang, 3 minutes walking away from Huay Khwang MRT Station. Owned by a Chinese girl from Chongqing and his Thai husband, they use the REAL oil and it's super cheap. Best hotpot I've ever tried in Thailand. 

 

PS: Not trying to publicize them, haha. It's just that it is the closest you can get in Thailand to the original one IMO.

Edited by ctxa
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I normally buy several packs of Sichuan peppercorns aka "prickly ash" in Singapore's Chinatown every time I visit there, but obviously have been unable to make the trip lately so I am going through withdrawal (I am seriously addicted -- I grind them and use them on pizza, eggs, Mexican wraps, most anything) here in BKK.  Singapore has many excellent mala hotpot joints, although I was first exposed and addicted in Chengdu.

 

We also had friend that is a Chengdu native as a source, but she got caught in China during the initial Covid lockdown and has never returned.  As you said, the peppercorns we have found in Thailand have been trash, but "mala" has been quite the rage lately in BKK and is popping up on anything from junky snacks at 7-11 to dishes at places like Yoshinoya and Pepper Lunch.  The oils are not the same as the actual "prickly ash" and that's the part I crave most (the "la" or heat/spice is easy to find, the "ma" or tongue-tingling bit much harder).  Quality makes a huge difference in Sichuan peppercorns, so I've found it worth paying up for the good stuff.  I had previously looked to buy online without success, but this topic has reminded me to renew my search.

Edited by eppic
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13 minutes ago, eppic said:

I normally buy several packs of Sichuan peppercorns aka "prickly ash" in Singapore's China town every time I visit there, but obviously have been unable to make the trip lately so I am going through withdrawal (I am seriously addicted since my Singapore days -- I grind them and use them on pizza, eggs, Mexican wraps, most anything). 

 

We also had friend that is a Chengdu native as a source, but she got caught in China during the intial Covid lockdown and has never returned.  As you said, the stuff you can find in Thailand is <deleted>, but "mala" has been quite the rage lately in BKK and is popping up on anything from junky snacks at 7-11 to dishes at places like Yoshinoya and Pepper Lunch.  Not sure the oils would be the same as the actual "prickly ash" and that's the part I crave most (the "la" or heat/spice is easy to find, the "ma" or tongue-tingling bit much harder).

Yes, the ersatz mala BBQ is super trendy with Thais these days. To my taste, there is no ma flavor at all! I've been told that Thai people for the most part do not like the ma flavor, so that makes sense. Once I bought a jar of made in Thailand mala paste for BBQ. I found it disgusting and just threw it out. 

 

As far as those plastic bags of what looked to be the makings for quick and easy Sichuan mala hot pot at that grocery, well, frankly I had never seen that product before even at massive Asian grocery stores in the U.S. where they have long aisles of just Sichuan stuff. It was from China of course. I could see it was very oily (as are the hot pots) and was full of spicing. I was told as you suggest that one of the two choices was more LA than the other. 

 

I took to the authentic MA (tingling, numbing) experience from my first taste and like a lot of pleasurable things I think it's rather addictive (if you can get it). 

 

As I said this grocery does have bottles of the dried Sichuan peppers. They were clear to me that they weren't from China and were from Thailand but I've never seen that packaging before. Indeed the bottle was unmarked! Also the peppers were BLACK which I've never seen before. I wasn't feeling like throwing 80 baht away to see what they're like as I've never bought Thai Sichuan peppers that turned out to be good. The best I've been able to say about the Thai ones is that sometimes they aren't stale, so even though they lack the real flavor at least they don't destroy the dishes they're used in. But I'm curious still. Why are they black!?!

Edited by Jingthing
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OK, this is more of a Hit and Run Restaurant item, but it fits here.

 

There is a place in North Pattaya that has some OK (not great) Sichuan food dishes such as mapo tofu, Chonqing spicy chili chicken, and kung pao chicken that does some quite decent grilled meat and vegetables that definitely have that distinctive Chinese CUMIN taste as opposed to the awful Thai style mala sticks. I recommend the tofu version at 80 baht for a large portion and the chicken wings at 20 for one stick. 

 

The place is on Lineman food delivery or you can go there:

It's called THAI CHIN.

You can see it's location on the map on Lineman. 

Edited by Jingthing
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OK, new to me, but apparently black Sichuan peppercorns are a thing.

 

Lamatar1 Black Sichuan Pepper 3.5 Oz From Mt. Everest Country Nepal Timur | eBay

 

I guess I'm going to have to break down and probably throw away the 80 baht for the mystery bottle.

I tried to communicate at the grocery store that I wanted to open a bottle and smell them and I think they understood me but it's a pretty outrageous request and I could see it wasn't going to be easy to get them to agree to that, so I just dropped it.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Jingthing said:

OK, new to me, but apparently black Sichuan peppercorns are a thing.

 

Lamatar1 Black Sichuan Pepper 3.5 Oz From Mt. Everest Country Nepal Timur | eBay

 

I guess I'm going to have to break down and probably throw away the 80 baht for the mystery bottle.

I tried to communicate at the grocery store that I wanted to open a bottle and smell them and I think they understood me but it's a pretty outrageous request and I could see it wasn't going to be easy to get them to agree to that, so I just dropped it.

 

 

 

If you need to ask in Chinese you could show them this phrase: 

 

老板,你能帮我打开看一下味道么?(laoban,ni neng bang wo da kai kan yi xia weidao me?)

 

That should be enough to get them to show you samples.

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This chain of discussion is awesome. We Chinese Americans need a forum to discuss these kind of things, especially the Chinese food! Our challenge is we don't look the part of farangs but at the same time look Asian but aren't Thai. They call me jeen farang. 

 

- Boston Chinatown born & raised (any fellow Cantonese, Toisanese jook sing out there?)

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6 hours ago, onebir said:

Much ado about hua jiao 😉 When I was in China my problem was avoiding them!

Perhaps people either love them or hate them like cilantro?

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