Flower pepper

Flower peppers

Blog #12


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/


* 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。







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。

Eating Crab with Chopsticks

Blog #6

I learned how to use chopsticks when I was a kid because I thought they were neat.  Now, whenever I travel in China, people are always amazed at how proficient I am as a foreigner with chopsticks.  I’ve never really had trouble eating anything with chopsticks until one night in Shanghai.  
My wife and I were meeting a friend of a friend at a restaurant.  She ordered the food, and out came hard shelled crab . . . and nothing but chopsticks.  I said – OK, I have no idea how to eat this with chop sticks.  Our host was sitting directly across the table from me.  She smiled and said ‘ you just use your teeth the break the shell’ and then she smiled a big smile . . . Every single one of her front teeth was broken.  It was like looking at a zig zag jagged line. I guess she really enjoyed to eat crab.
I left the dinner hungry that night.

我小时候学习用筷子,学会了,并且学得很好。现在我去中国的时候,中国人常常说”哎呀,这个外国人会用筷子!”。别人说,我拿筷子的方式是对的,可是我太太拿筷子的方式是错的。大部分时候用筷子没有遇到问题, 直到在上海一个晚上。 我和我的太太打算和一个朋友的朋友见面一起吃饭。她点了菜以后上了五只硬壳螃蟹。我们都用筷子,没有其他的。 我说了“好。我会筷子但是,我不知道怎么用筷子打开硬壳螃蟹。 我们的朋友坐在我对面。他说”没有问题!你就用你的牙打开。“ 然后她笑了笑。他的每颗牙齿都是坏的, 看起来很不整齐。我想她真的很喜欢吃螃蟹。这个晚上我没有吃饱。