Flower peppers

Blog #12

3-16-18

A mutual friend introduced my wife and me while we were working at a government lab NIST. She always liked to share her Chinese culture with me. One night we went out to eat Chinese food. The menu had a spiciness scale for their dishes:

* : Spicy

** : Very spicy

*** : Extremely spicy

# : Numbing

“#? Numbing? What is that?” I though. That must be super spicy!

A few weeks later, this Chinese girlfriend brought me a real Chinese lunchbox that she had cooked herself. How romantic!

In our large NIST cafeteria maybe there are a few hundred people eating lunch and two microwaves to heat up lunchboxes. So, typically, there is a lot of waiting for the microwave.

My wife (girlfriend at that time) brought me a hot lunchbox and went back to heat up a second lunchbox. She told me to start eating and let her know what I thought. I opened the lid of the glass lunchbox and the steamy rice and veggies looked pretty good. There was a spice scent inside I did not recognize and so I started eating. About the fourth or fifth bite, something inside my mouth stuck me like a needle. I stopped chewing. Was it a piece of broken glass? What was this sharp thing? I spit out the food into a napkin. Then, my mouth started becoming numb. It felt like a dentist had given me a shot of anesthetic. I must be having some kind of food allergy! I stood up to find my girlfriend (wife) and she was already on her way back with lunchbox #2. I said “something is wrong, there was a sharp thing in the food, and now my mouth is going numb”. She just said “yes, that’s flower pepper.” At this point I still don’t know what flower pepper is, so I am still pretty worried.

I said – “I don’t know what is happening to me, my mouth is going numb.”

She said again, “oh, that’s just flower pepper. It is a little numbing”

“Numbing?” I asked “The food is numbing?”

Fun fact: Numbing is a hard word to say in English when your mouth is numb.

And then she added “maybe I added too much? I don’t really know how to cook with it.”

Well, it turns out I survived the flower pepper. She showed me what the flower peppers look like and it turns out about 1/5 of the dish was flower peppers. Some of them when dried can be quite sharp! All in all I learned that flower pepper is actually numbing, and that dried flower pepper can be quite sharp. And that Sichuan people are pretty bold.

You can read more about this spice here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-szechuan-peppers-make-your-lips-go-numb-5668606/

一个朋友介绍我和我的太太认识。以前我们在同一个国家实验室,NIST工作。这个中国美女(我的太太)总是给我介绍中国文化。一天我们出去在中国饭店吃晚饭。他们的菜单上有辣度排名:

* 辣

** 很辣

*** 非常辣

# 麻辣

“#?” “麻辣?” 我觉得很怪,不懂它的意思。应该是非常非常辣的。

差不多三个星期以后,这个中国美女准备了一个盒饭给我。她自己做的。好浪漫。

在我们公司的餐厅,有两百人但只有两个微波炉,所以常常需要排队用微波炉。我的女朋友给我一个热的盒饭,她说了,”你开始吃饭,我去排队“。这是一个玻璃饭盒。我打开盒饭盖子,闻到一阵香味。里面有好看的饭和菜。我发现一种气味我不认识。我开始吃饭。第四五口饭,一个东西在口里面刺伤了我。我在想“这是什么?这是一片碎玻璃吗?

我把饭吐到纸上。我的嘴巴变麻了。像在看牙医,像在嘴巴里打针。我觉得可能是食物过敏!我站起来找我的女朋友,看到她回到我们的桌旁。我说“快快来我有一个大问题。我不懂为什么我的嘴巴麻木了“。

她说“这就是花椒。它会让你的嘴巴有一点儿麻。“

“麻?菜是麻的?“我说了。嘴巴麻的时候很难说“麻木“这个字。

我的女朋友说,“可能加了太多花椒。不知道应该加多少。我真的没有用过,没有办法用花椒做菜。“

我战胜了花椒。她给我看花椒是什么, 我发现我的盒饭差不多五分之一都是花椒。总之,我学会了,花椒菜真的很麻。花椒干可能刺你的嘴巴。我也学到了四川人可能很大胆。

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