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This Spice Company Sells the Rarest Sichuan Chili Peppers Directly From China

I love spicy foods. When I cook, friends often tell me to tone it down. Instead, I just make it spicier and amusingly await their reaction. There is something addictive about the combination of pleasure and the sharp tingle of spice on your tongue. Even the recent heatwave we had in Los Angeles didn’t stop me from eating spicy foods. In my appreciation for spice, I’m happy to report that LA-based sauce brand Fly By Jing is offering fans of Sichuan cuisine a chance to get their hands on actual peppers from the motherland.

For those unfamiliar with these special peppers, they originate from the Sichuan province in southwestern China. Not particularly spicy on their own, they create an all at once numbing and tingling feeling on the tongue when consumed. Then when combined with chili peppers it creates the “numb-spicy” sensation that we’ve come to associate with Sichuan cuisine.

In celebration of Sichuan culinary culture, Fly By Jing wants to bring the authentic Eastern experience to your doorstep. August was the annual pepper harvest and each year they almost sell out immediately. Thankfully, Fly By Jing snagged a few for you pepper-philes. The first pepper is called the Harvest Tribute Pepper, which is an ancient Chinese spice that has been cultivated in the Sichuan province for thousands of years. It’s known for that electric sensation I previously mentioned. The second pepper is called the Harvest Erjingtiao Chili. It is the most popular variety of chili in Sichuan and has a mild kick accompanied by an intense aroma. Both are now available online.

For those who lean more towards the “ready-made” side of options, Fly By Jing offers two different sauces. Each are all natural, MSG-free, gluten free and vegan friendly. The Sichuan Chili Crisp is their flagship sauce, made with erjingtao chiles, harvest peppers, and cold-pressed rapeseed oil. It’s not overly spicy and has an intense flavor that’s apparently so good it can even be paired with ice cream. Their next sauce is the Zhong Dumpling Sauce, slow-brewed with fragrant chili-oil, aromatic “fu zhi” soy sauce, brown sugar, mushrooms, garlic, and other spices. This sauce has a variety of uses as well, particularly for noodles, grilled fish and of course, dumplings. So If you’re looking to spice up your life with some traditional Sichuan flavors, Fly By Jing got the sauce.

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Culture Fast Food Restaurants

Panda Express Debuting Sichuan Hot Chicken Nationwide

Both Sichuan and Nashville Hot chicken have been iconic dishes in their own cultures respectively. Boasting a sweet and fiery heat with each bite, the flavors from two different corners of the world have always stood apart, especially in the world of fast food. Though it looks like that time’s come to an end.

The latest original recipe from Panda Express, Sichuan Hot Chicken draws from classic Sichuan-style spices paired with one of the United States’ favorite comfort dishes: Nashville Hot Chicken.

What results is a flavorful marriage of heat and heartiness in the form of a crispy breaded white meat chicken strip.

Head of Culinary Innovation, Chef Jimmy Wang, helped bring forth this culinary union after a trip to Chengdu, China, bringing back the aromatic flavors of tingling Sichuan peppercorns to combine with the spice blends that make up the fundamental identity of Nashville Hot Chicken.

Our boys in the field Richard Guinto and Constantine Spyrou were some of the first ever to try this new fusion of flavors, even having it served in burrito form:

Panda Express’ Sichuan Hot Chicken debuts at all restaurant locations nationwide on July 17, and will run for about 10 weeks or while supplies last.

Note: The pickles featured in our imagery can only be found at Panda Express + Tea Bar locations. The Sichuan Hot Chicken will be served without them at the majority of their locations. 

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Let’s Talk About the Addictive Nature of Sichuan Peppercorns

There’s a taste sensation I’ve been chasing lately that borders on addiction. It’s a rolling numbness, like lightning bottled up and served as a condiment. A wavelength of electric feel the likes MGMT would be proud of. It’s a tingling vibration that embraces my entire mouth in a buzz, like I’ve just gargled a raincloud. But in a good way. And it’s all thanks to the Sichuan peppercorn.

For those not familiar, the Sichuan peppercorn is commonly used in Chinese food, more specifically, in Sichuan cuisine. Unlike most peppers, Sichuan peppercorn’s characteristics aren’t hot or pungent, rather they illicit a spice sensation that’s akin to the carbonation in soda yet with a tingly, numbing sensation, like touching your tongue to a nine-volt battery. Though I wouldn’t recommend actually doing so. And we have the 3% of a molecule called hydroxy-alpha sanshool within the peppercorns to thank for this dynamic feeling.

To get to the bottom of my obsession with Sichuan spice, I hit up Chef Louis Tikaram, of EP & LP in Hollywood, CA, who recently debuted a secret menu dish that featured actual fresh Sichuan peppercorns. The reason that’s significant is because according to him, finding fresh Sichuan peppercorns outside of China is quite rare.

“I went to Kong Thao’s farm in Fresno and I walked under this tree and got this crazy kind of waft. I was like what the fuck what is that? It was fresh Sichuan peppercorns and I look up and it’s just this huge tree. I always imagined [they] would be on almost like a vanilla vine, so perfect and delicate and powerful.”

Such a eureka moment sparked a fervor in Tikaram to take advantage of this opportunity, ultimately leading to a dish that utilized the concentrated power of fresh Sichuan peppercorns.

“So I took a big bag, rode it back to the restaurant and I started to cook. These fresh berries are so intense. Where the dry ones have been heat treated, dried, and who knows when they’ve been harvested. Could’ve been years ago. Knowing how powerfully concentrated the peppercorns are fresh, I had to develop a dish where I could get that intensity but balance it so it has kind of that intoxicating aroma and you can still understand where the dish is coming from.”

The result is a beautifully fried fish cooked in vegetable oil that the fresh peppercorns were heated in quickly, which is a process that Tikaram referred to as “blooming.” What this does is flavor the oil with the peppercorns’ electric essence almost instantly, which he then uses to coat the fried fish.

Watching Chef Louis orchestrate his mastery of this dish had me salivating more than a pack of Pavlov’s hounds. When he slid the finished plate to me I almost snatched it halfway, the longing for the cosmic Sichuan spice getting the better of me. First bite and yes, there it was, that familiar floral tinge that unfurled itself slowly across my tongue like silken electricity, coating my palate in delicious voltage. And it’s this very nature of spicy that has plenty other foodies flocking to Sichuan-style restaurants these days.

Stopping short of calling this rise of interest in Sichuan cuisine a trend, it is easy to say that the freakishly addictive nature of this otherworldly kind of spiciness is on the cusp of being bigger that what it is confined to. And with chefs like Louis Tikaram coming across rarities like fresh Sichuan peppercorns, soon enough we’ll be seeing the fresh jungle green tinge of them in more and more regional style dishes, as opposed to the maroon hue of dried ones.

What that hopefully means is more taser-good tastes coming to fiends of the Sichuan spice, as the love for this cuisine is literally the buzz these days for adventurous foodies and curious palates alike.