This is Mongolian Beef.

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I’m having a reaction to Szechuan Pepper & Salt, and I’m not talking about allergies. My entire head is swooning in a numb, firey nirvana.

It’s rare that I eat something that makes my eyes roll back in my head – that forces me to stop and eat my meal in slow motion.

I’ll post later in the week about the two dishes we made tonight, but for now, let’s focus on the fairy dust.

The guy at Whole Foods mentioned something about a numbing sensation caused by SPS, but apparently I wasn’t really listening.

I blogged previously about our hunt for Szechuan Peppercorns, and today we found them at Williams-Sonoma – ok, so not an authentic Asian experience, but a yuppy’s got to do what a yuppy’s got to do.

I get them home and can’t wait to open the jar and stick my nose right in.

POW! Be careful. These are pungent little demons. They may look pink and angelic, but they’re spoiling for a fight.

To make Szechuan Pepper and Salt:

In a dry pan, put 1 part Szechuan Peppercorns to 2 parts coarse sea salt. Roast over high heat. Your kitchen will be engulfed in an alien aroma. Weirdly, it smelled to me like a Christmas tree.

The peppercorns will begin to pop, you’ll see a little smoke and at this point your instincts will tell you to take it off the heat.

I immediately pour it into my mortar and pestle and let it cool.

The only thing left to do it pulverize the mixture until it looks like the surface of the moon.

Wait until you see what we sprinkle this stuff on…that post is coming soon!

Bridget’s planning a few meals this weekend from our new Kylie Kwong cookbook. Seeing as we never cook Chinese food, we had some shopping to do.

We found most everything we needed at Whole Foods, but the one ingredient that alluded us were Szechuan Peppercorns from which we were going to make Szechuan Pepper and Salt (a stable accompaniment the Kylie serves with most of her dishes).

A very helpful Whole Foodie told us that they didn’t carry the peppercorns, but that we could substitute white pepercorns if we wanted. We said he was familiar with the Szechuan gems, and that they are unique in that they fill your mouth with a “strange all over spiciness.” I was intrigued.

He told us to try a couple of Asia markets down the road. Now, keep in mind that we know there are Szechuan peppercorns at Williams-Sonoma, but something in me wants to find the real thing.

I’m craving authenticity.

The first Asian market we visited was on Division Street, just off Veterans Boulevard (turn by the behemoth Barnes & Noble). They had plenty of videos from the SBS (?), but, alas, no S.P.C.s.

A little further down Vets we spot another market and swing in. This place was bigger. They had fresh produce (cute green baby bok choy), but no luck.

As we make for home, I remember that down on Williams in Kenner there’s a cluster of ethnic food hubs. We decided to make one last attempt. Just as I thought, there was another Asian market, and although we found plenty of dried, ground spices, no peppercorns.

We decided to buy the sodas and I snagged a little container of wasabi peas before we headed home. I guess we’ll be going to Williams-Sonoma tomorrow.

So I didn’t find what I was looking for. I discovered something I hadn’t planned on. There’s obviously an Asian community in New Orleans, something that’s easy to overlook given the predominant Cajun-Creoles, and the new Hispanic infusion. I’m planning to visit the Asian markets again. I want to spend a few hours exploring their shelves, maybe buy a bamboo steamer and learn something.