published in August 2006, this updated pantry ingredient post features
new photos, links, and a few tweaks to the recipe. Spicy and salty, these large shrimp make a tantalizing appetizer to serve with cocktails, or as part of a larger Chinese banquet. Be warned: salt and pepper prawns are highly (and delightfully) addictive.
File this under "explorations in an ethnic market where you don't speak the language and can't read the package labels and you've wandered up and down the aisles and looked and looked and know what you want is somewhere in the store but you cannot find it."
So you ask everyone in the market, which by the way is in Boston's Chinatown, "Do you have szechuan peppercorns?" Blank stares. You try different pronounciations — sesh-wan, setch-wan, setch-u-on. Pep-per-corn. Pep-pah (the Boston dialect).
Nobody speaks English.
Nobody understands your pantomime.
Fair enough. After all, you are the only one there who doesn't speak the language.
Frustrated but determined, you ask your husband Ted to bring his Chinese friend Margaret to the market to search for these peppercorns. A few days later on their lunch break, they go -- but they come home empty-handed, too. Which, frankly, makes you feel a teensy bit better.
This is a true story, by the way. It happened in 1998.