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Tianlai Mart (aka, Szechuan peppercorns in the NW suburbs)

Tianlai Mart (aka, Szechuan peppercorns in the NW suburbs)
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  • Tianlai Mart (aka, Szechuan peppercorns in the NW suburbs)

    Post #1 - October 13th, 2006, 11:48 am
    Post #1 - October 13th, 2006, 11:48 am Post #1 - October 13th, 2006, 11:48 am
    Is an entire afternoon too much time to spend looking for one ingredient? Of course not. So when the recipe Chengdu Pork with Daikon Radish from the incredible book All About Braising calls for Szechuan peppercorns, that's what we get.

    The first stop was Asia Supermarket, on Golf Rd. and Roselle Rd. in Schaumburg. I've gone here before for kimchi, fish sauce, rice wine, and frozen Asian snacks, but the perplexed look I got when requesting "Szechuan peppercorns" was a little disheartening. Upon further conversation, it turns out they're a mostly Korean outfit, and couldn't help with any new leads.

    From there it was on to Szechuan House in Palatine. Since it was about 3:30 only the wait staff was on hand, so they weren't comfortable with pilfering the kitchen of supplies. What they did do, though, was point me toward where the cooks go when they need last minute items. I've always liked Szechuan House, but the fact that a friendly hostess took time to draw out a map just makes it more endearing.

    So the final stop was Tianlai Mart, henceforth known as "the place I've always been looking for", near the intersection of Dundee Rd and Route 53. I was briskly directed to a bag marked "prickly ash", which turns out to be the peppercorns. But there was so much more: Chinese candies, tons of dumplings in the fridge, at least 20 different kinds of hot bean paste, and an ample stock of pork belly in the butcher section. That will help for Braised Pork Belly and Boy Choy this weekend.

    Peppercorns:
    Image

    Result:
    Image

    I can tell that Tianlai Mart is going to become one of the "go to" places for me when making Chinese dishes. Are there any other places in the NW area that I should know about?

    Asia Supermarket
    34 E Golf Rd # 36
    Schaumburg, IL 60173
    (847) 781-0289

    Szechuan House
    321 E Northwest Hwy
    Palatine, IL 60067
    (847) 991-0888

    Tianlai Mart Inc
    1266 E Dundee Rd
    Palatine, IL 60074
    (847) 991-0083
    Last edited by Anko on October 13th, 2006, 12:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #2 - October 13th, 2006, 12:30 pm
    Post #2 - October 13th, 2006, 12:30 pm Post #2 - October 13th, 2006, 12:30 pm
    quality fresh maroon/red sichuan peppercorns are always on hand @ The Spice House

    most "prickly ash" berries I've seen at Chinese grocery stores are dark, wizened and old...of course these could also be mislabled sansho
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #3 - October 13th, 2006, 12:43 pm
    Post #3 - October 13th, 2006, 12:43 pm Post #3 - October 13th, 2006, 12:43 pm
    In Sichuan, they refer to these "peppercorns" (which are unrelated to pepper) as "numb-hot" -- because that's just the effect prickly ash has when you bite into one of the berries -- sort of a chili-novocaine blend. I don't fancy the sensation myself, but it's sure popular in Sichuan.

    But I'm delighted to learn about Tianlai. I can't wait to visit.
  • Post #4 - October 13th, 2006, 12:45 pm
    Post #4 - October 13th, 2006, 12:45 pm Post #4 - October 13th, 2006, 12:45 pm
    Christopher Gordon wrote:quality fresh maroon/red sichuan peppercorns are always on hand @ The Spice House


    It would be great to try this recipe with those fresh peppercorns and taste the difference. Do you know if they last a long time, or do they have to be used right away?
  • Post #5 - October 13th, 2006, 12:46 pm
    Post #5 - October 13th, 2006, 12:46 pm Post #5 - October 13th, 2006, 12:46 pm
    yr pics weren't loading earlier, but now that they do yr "peppercorns" look pretty fresh

    Eating raw szechuan peppercorn is akin to licking a battery.
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #6 - October 13th, 2006, 12:47 pm
    Post #6 - October 13th, 2006, 12:47 pm Post #6 - October 13th, 2006, 12:47 pm
    Cynthia wrote:In Sichuan, they refer to these "peppercorns" (which are unrelated to pepper) as "numb-hot" -- because that's just the effect prickly ash has when you bite into one of the berries -- sort of a chili-novocaine blend.


    My wife actually started to get a little concerned: "What's happening to my MOUTH!"
  • Post #7 - October 13th, 2006, 12:49 pm
    Post #7 - October 13th, 2006, 12:49 pm Post #7 - October 13th, 2006, 12:49 pm
    Anko wrote:
    Christopher Gordon wrote:quality fresh maroon/red sichuan peppercorns are always on hand @ The Spice House


    It would be great to try this recipe with those fresh peppercorns and taste the difference. Do you know if they last a long time, or do they have to be used right away?


    they last pretty indefinitely...once they eventually start to darken and lose their citrusy aroma I'd consider stocking up on new...I've had my last batch from The Spice House for over a year and they worked just fine in the ma po tofu I made last week
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #8 - October 13th, 2006, 1:26 pm
    Post #8 - October 13th, 2006, 1:26 pm Post #8 - October 13th, 2006, 1:26 pm
    Anko wrote:Are there any other places in the NW area that I should know about?

    Up in that neck of the woods I periodically visit Carniceria Jiminez, at the northeast corner of Wheeling Rd. and Dundee. Last time I was in there, I had to restrain myself from picking up six different varieties of chorizo. Good looking meat, lots of produce from the mundane to the unusual, and good prices.

    Midway between 53 and Wheeling is a little shopping center with an eastern european deli whose name I can't remember, but I've been a patron of the Venture Hobbies in the same center for about 30 years. It's one light east of Buffalo Grove rd. I've picked up a few interesting things from there, but I can't say it's a destination shopping opportunity.

    Most of my other ethnic shopping draws me to either Niles for the two Korean marts flanking the Greenwood and Milwaukee corner, or to Valli Produce in Arlington Heights (just east of Arlington Heights Rd), which has some excellent Italian stuff in their deli, plus gelato, and a host of other ethnic goodies.

    What I need out here in the NW burbs is somebody who stocks the SWAD Indian products.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #9 - October 13th, 2006, 1:43 pm
    Post #9 - October 13th, 2006, 1:43 pm Post #9 - October 13th, 2006, 1:43 pm
    JoelF wrote:Up in that neck of the woods I periodically visit Carniceria Jiminez, at the northeast corner of Wheeling Rd. and Dundee. Last time I was in there, I had to restrain myself from picking up six different varieties of chorizo.


    I think we passed this place after we missed Tianlai on the first pass. So did you just pick up 4 or 5 kinds of chorizo? That seems more reasonable.

    JoelF wrote: or to Valli Produce in Arlington Heights (just east of Arlington Heights Rd), which has some excellent Italian stuff in their deli, plus gelato, and a host of other ethnic goodies.


    I'm always near the one on Higgins and Roselle but never thought about going in. Thanks for the tip.
  • Post #10 - October 13th, 2006, 1:54 pm
    Post #10 - October 13th, 2006, 1:54 pm Post #10 - October 13th, 2006, 1:54 pm
    Just wanted to say I made that braised pork belly recipe a couple weekends ago and it was just lovely. The belly and bok choy were from a recent trip to Hmart. I only saw skinless, although I believe the recipe called for skin on. Anyhow, next time (and there will be a next time, that recipe is in the permanent rotation now) I might sear the belly chunks first for a bit for color. "All About Braising" is one of my current favorite cookbooks.

    grace

    Anko wrote:
    So the final stop was Tianlai Mart, henceforth known as "the place I've always been looking for", near the intersection of Dundee Rd and Route 53. I was briskly directed to a bag marked "prickly ash", which turns out to be the peppercorns. But there was so much more: Chinese candies, tons of dumplings in the fridge, at least 20 different kinds of hot bean paste, and an ample stock of pork belly in the butcher section. That will help for Braised Pork Belly and Boy Choy this weekend.

  • Post #11 - October 13th, 2006, 1:59 pm
    Post #11 - October 13th, 2006, 1:59 pm Post #11 - October 13th, 2006, 1:59 pm
    Just wanted to say I made that braised pork belly recipe a couple weekends ago and it was just lovely. The belly and bok choy were from a recent trip to Hmart. I only saw skinless, although I believe the recipe called for skin on. Anyhow, next time (and there will be a next time, that recipe is in the permanent rotation now) I might sear the belly chunks first for a bit for color. "All About Braising" is one of my current favorite cookbooks.

    grace

    Anko wrote:
    So the final stop was Tianlai Mart, henceforth known as "the place I've always been looking for", near the intersection of Dundee Rd and Route 53. I was briskly directed to a bag marked "prickly ash", which turns out to be the peppercorns. But there was so much more: Chinese candies, tons of dumplings in the fridge, at least 20 different kinds of hot bean paste, and an ample stock of pork belly in the butcher section. That will help for Braised Pork Belly and Boy Choy this weekend.

  • Post #12 - October 13th, 2006, 2:43 pm
    Post #12 - October 13th, 2006, 2:43 pm Post #12 - October 13th, 2006, 2:43 pm
    swine dining wrote: "All About Braising" is one of my current favorite cookbooks.


    You might want to check out this resource about the book. It's got a ton of great insights.
  • Post #13 - October 13th, 2006, 4:47 pm
    Post #13 - October 13th, 2006, 4:47 pm Post #13 - October 13th, 2006, 4:47 pm
    Anko wrote:Are there any other places in the NW area that I should know about?


    Harvest Fresh International Farmers Market
    847/368-0138
    100 E. Rand Road, Arlington Heights
    A great multi-ethnic market with all kinds of Eastern European products, a terrific deli and Russian soda pop. You'll hear a lot of Russian and Polish spoken there. But I noticed last time that they've really expanded their Indian section (I started to write "beefed up," but that would be wrong :wink:), including SWAD -- so take note, Joel F. (Depending on what you want, Cost Plus stores also usually have some SWAD stuff, too.)

    Joe Caputo & Sons Fruit Market
    847/827-6700
    www.joecaputoandsons.com
    2070 N. Rand Road, Palatine
    Another big multi-ethnic, which leans more Italian and Latin American. Previous report

    Seoul Market
    847/870-8830
    1204 W. Dundee Road, Buffalo Grove
    A large, clean Korean supermarket, with a butcher offering fresh meat and marinated meats for bulgogi, galbi, etc., including black pork; and assorted prepared banchan in plastic clamshells; and baked goods from Dokil Bakery and Cake House Opera.

    Istanbul Market
    847/290-9740
    www.istanbulsupermarket.com
    Colony Square Shopping Center
    2324 S. Elmhurst Road, Mount Prospect
    Small Turkish grocery. Previous report

    Presumably you know about the Japanese markets.

    Of course, what I need is a 24-hour ethnic market. (I suppose Woodman's might be that, if you count "cheesehead" as an ethnic.)
  • Post #14 - October 13th, 2006, 6:10 pm
    Post #14 - October 13th, 2006, 6:10 pm Post #14 - October 13th, 2006, 6:10 pm
    Maybe you have been luckier in this regard than I, but for the last several years I have found it almost imposible to find really good sichuan peppercorns locally. Those available in the market have usually been heat treated (in order to kill an asian citrus virus) and as a result of that process loose much of thier flavor, and almost all of the 'electric" tingle they should have. For the last few years, sale of untreated peppercorns was actually against USDA regulations. I am not sure this situation has changed.
  • Post #15 - October 13th, 2006, 8:20 pm
    Post #15 - October 13th, 2006, 8:20 pm Post #15 - October 13th, 2006, 8:20 pm
    kuhdo wrote:Maybe you have been luckier in this regard than I, but for the last several years I have found it almost imposible to find really good sichuan peppercorns locally. Those available in the market have usually been heat treated (in order to kill an asian citrus virus) and as a result of that process loose much of thier flavor, and almost all of the 'electric" tingle they should have. For the last few years, sale of untreated peppercorns was actually against USDA regulations. I am not sure this situation has changed.



    yes, the FDA ban was lifted(to much heralding and huzzahs) over a year ago: hence, The Spice House, etc. now carrying them in quantity: theirs have a floral/citrusy, "licking a battery" tingle on the lips and back of the palate...of course eating them raw isn't necessarily recommended, but the "buzz" is shortlived compared to the capsaicin bite of a hot chile

    these are still "treated," but pack a punch(for example one or two give you a nice tingle...eating as much as a teaspoon-full is for "extreme" eaters only).

    in prior years all I could find was the black, tiny, musty berries of sansho if not, simply, really, really, really old szechuan peppercorn in the backs of Chinese apothcaries

    I remember that other posters had better luck requisitioning supplies from friendly restaurant owners...this is no longer necessary
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #16 - October 17th, 2006, 6:19 am
    Post #16 - October 17th, 2006, 6:19 am Post #16 - October 17th, 2006, 6:19 am
    What I need out here in the NW burbs is somebody who stocks the SWAD Indian products.[/quote]

    You should definitely try Harvest Fresh. I happened to be there last night and they had a profusion of SWAD products - both in the aisles and in the freezer section.

    Harvest Fresh International Farmers Market
    847/368-0138
    100 E. Rand Road, Arlington Heights
    Jyoti
    A meal, with bread and wine, shared with friends and family is among the most essential and important of all human rituals.
    Ruhlman
  • Post #17 - October 17th, 2006, 10:04 am
    Post #17 - October 17th, 2006, 10:04 am Post #17 - October 17th, 2006, 10:04 am
    Shop and Save has Swad products, as well -- at least the one in Des Plaines does. I'd imagine they all would, however, though I haven't been to the Niles store recently.

    Shop and Save
    518 Metropolitan Way
    Des Plaines, IL 60016
    (847) 824-2140

    and

    229 Golf Mill Ctr
    Niles, IL 60714
    (847) 803-6590

    And here are a couple of web site that list a large percentage of the Indian grocery stores in Illinois -- many in the suburbs.

    http://www.thokalath.com/illinois/grocery_stores.php

    http://www.garamchai.com/bazaarCE.htm

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