October 4, 2007
A Cook, Not a Seamstress, Needed Here

Anyone seen a "Sechuan button" around here? It's a furry little yellow/green nub that's generating buzz in culinary circles along the Atlantic seaboard, but if it's being used in the Sacramento area I haven't run across it. If any cooks or bartenders here are using it, please get in touch. Though the name and effect is similar to the Szechuan pepper, the two aren't related and aren't to be confused, said The Washington Post in a feature article published yesterday.

The "Sechuan button," wrote The Post's Bonnie S. Benwick, is used in South American, North African and Asian dishes, from salads to stews, and is celebrated for its jolt. One taster likened it to "licking a nine-volt battery." "There's a grassy start, then a rush into Pop-Rocks territory as a tingling-slight numbing combo hits the back of the soft palate," wrote Benwick.

Despite its novelty in the United States, it long has been used elsewhere in part for its purported medicinal properties, particularly with respect to stammering, toothaches and stomach distress, according to Nicolas Mazard, manager of the U.S. branch of Koppert Cress BV, a Holland-based company growing the bud on Long Island.

If you call up the article, be sure to click on the adjoining video of four Washington Post writers giving the "Sechuan button" a taste test. One of them is former Bee colleague J. Freedom du Lac, now the Post's pop music critic.

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