I'm back! Well, sort of. I'm easing back into my school-year routine, our weekly schedule and my to do list. On my list is to get back to blogging and I'm starting real slow this week.
I cannot believe I haven't blogged about the "numbing spice" that I have a love/hate relationship with.
If you look below and ignore the chopsticks and the large slices of ginger, do you see the little reddish peppercorns? Those are Sichuan numbing spices.
I was first introduced to the spices accidentally when went with a group of friends to eat at a local Muslim Chinese restaurant. Someone ordered the spicy green beans and I bit into a peppercorn, not knowing what it was, and my tongue started to tingle and go numb. As first I was embarrassed that I might be having an allergic reaction (c'mon, who is allergic to green beans?) and I wasn't going to say anything, but I did and then a friend filled me in on the numbing spice.
The spice is used a lot in Sichuan cooking, which is one of the spiciest Chinese cuisines. I was told that once the tongue is numbed, then you can eat even spicier foods. I don't know if that is true, but it sounds good! Because our Ayi is from the Sichuan province, she cooks spicy dishes for us often.
I had to share the description I found on Wikipedia:
According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, second edition, p429 they are not simply pungent; "they produce a strange, tingling, buzzing, numbing sensation that is something like the effect of carbonated drinks or of a mild electrical current (touching the terminals of a nine-volt battery to the tongue). Sanshools appear to act on several different kinds of nerve endings at once, induce sensitivity to touch and cold in nerves that are ordinarily nonsensitive, and so perhaps cause a kind of general neurological confusion."
Our Ayi described the dish as málà, which literally means "numbing" "spicy". And, in doing my Wikipedia research I found out that málà is also Chinese slang, but I'll let you google that.
And, just for fun, here is a picture of 8 little girls we went with to dinner at the Muslim restaurant (where I first tried the numbing spice). Between the three families we almost had a girl at each age, birth to 7 years!