clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Eastern Ocean One

20 Tingly Dishes Featuring Sichuan Peppercorns

Where to find some heat in NYC

View as Map

It’s been four long years since Eater New York’s looked at the proliferation of Sichuan peppercorn here, and the use of the spice (really, the dried berries of the prickly ash tree) has increased more than tenfold since then — and not only on Chinese and Tibetan menus, either. Other Asian cafes, fast-casual restaurants, bistros helmed by adventuresome cooks, and even pastry chefs have begun to use them, partly for their shock value, but also because the general public has gone wild for the spice. So now, Sichuan peppercorns can be spotted all over town. Here’s an updated list of some stellar places to try.

Note: restaurants are listed based on geography, starting with south to north in Manhattan. All photos by Robert Sietsema.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
If you book a reservation through an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

Famous Sichuan

Copy Link

Legend has it that mapo tofu was invented by a woman on the outskirts of Chengdu a century ago. The dish is now available in nearly every city neighborhood — and in this case, Chinatown itself. There’s a thrill to the contrast between the bland and creamy bean curd and the fiery, porky sauce.

Mission Chinese Food

Copy Link

The early days of Mission Chinese were characterized by the wholesale usage of ma la peppercorns in over-the-top quantities, and the current version still uses them liberally. Most notable is kung pao pastrami, a classic Sichuan dish from China with pastrami substituted for chicken, reflecting neighborhood terroir.

Spicy Village

Copy Link

The food of Henan is presented at this tiny cafe on bucolic Liz Chrystie Park, which specializes in broad, handmade wheat noodles. The dish that caused a sensation a few years back was “spicy big tray chicken,” featuring chicken morsels in an incendiary chile-oil soup, with lots of Sichuan peppercorn — so many that they can be eaten by the spoonful.

A big metal bowl with stewed chicken and noodles, topped with a pile of cilantro Photo: Eater Video

Harold's Meat + Three

Copy Link

An obscure corner of Soho is not the first place to look for Sichuan peppercorns, but this evocation of a classic Southern diner delivers the goods. Among main dishes, the thick Berkshire pork chop comes dusted with peppercorns, delivering a prodigious tingle to the tongue.

Hot Kitchen

Copy Link

This multi-roomed restaurant deserves plaudits for popularizing Sichuan peppercorns in the East Village for the first time six years ago. It was also an early espouser of hot pots. Mung bean noodles with spicy and peppery sauce, shrimp in aromatic wok, and tripe in hot chile oil are recommended dishes — or anything marked with two or more red chiles on the menu.

Málà Project

Copy Link

The name says it all. Trailing peppercorns, this brick-walled café flew into the East Village in early 2016. It sought to popularize the dry hot pot, by which any combination of ingredients can be selected to be stir-fried with plenty of peppercorns and other flavorings. The menu offers a variety of meats loved in China.

Auntie Guan's Kitchen 108

Copy Link

At this Union Square restaurant where much of the food hails from Dongbei, go for the apps featuring oxtail, tongue, and tripe; the dishes marked Sichuan on the menu; and the “lamb chop with cumin and chile sauce.” The latter is shown here, snowed with a powerful spice combo featuring cumin, sesame seeds, dried chiles, and Sichuan peppercorns.

Legend Bar & Restaurant

Copy Link

This Chelsea bar introduced many to Sichuan peppercorns for the first time through its combination of cocktails and eclectic Chinese food. The dan dan noodles are spicier than that staple often is, and both peppercorns and chile oil pack a powerful wallop in “tears in eyes,” a plate of peppercorn-heaped mung bean starch in planks.

Café China

Copy Link

It was around 2005 that Sichuan restaurants started appearing in Midtown catering to office workers, who realized that a ma la kick in the pants was the perfect way to relieve midday boredom. This place provides them in abundance in an adventuresome mix of Sichuan dishes, including appetizers of duck tongue, beef tendon, and, especially, diced rabbit with peanuts.

Savour Sichuan

Copy Link

At an Eater-office tasting one afternoon, Savour Sichuan amazed with the quality — and the heat — of its dishes, especially when it came to standards of the cuisine. But diners can also go far afield from those on Savour’s new menu, including pig feet, kidneys, rabbit, and aorta — a dish that has an unexpected texture and plenty of whole hua jiao.

108 Food Dried Hot Pot

Copy Link

The Upper West Side has recently a peppercorn hotbed, as evidenced by 108 Food, an informal, serve-yourself café that specializes in dry hot pots, which contain plenty of the mouth-numbing spice. But an accessory menu also delivers spicy versions of Sichuan standards too, making it a very versatile place to grab a bite.

Little Pepper

Copy Link

Yes, even the french fries at Sichuan stalwart Little Pepper come coated with pepper. You’ll think this is such a good idea that you may take to carrying a little stash of Sichuan peppercorns in your pocket to put on all other french fries. Located in College Point, Little Pepper is worth the bus ride from the 7 train.

Grain House

Copy Link

Flourishing in the northeastern Queens neighborhood of Little Neck is Grain House, a restaurant with a Beijing perspective located in a burgeoning new Chinatown. The Sichuan dishes in particular are peppercorn-laden, including yibin burning noodles and Chengdu cold noodles. Unexpectedly spicy with them are dishes such as “crust of cooked shrimp,” which features bland little rice cakes.

Daxi Sichuan

Copy Link

This modern Sichuan restaurant in elegant digs overlooks Roosevelt Avenue, and the peppercorns fly freely. One of the best ways to experience them is Tibet-style pork rib, nearly a dozen specimens wrapped individually in casings like sausages and flavored with cumin and crushed peppercorns. Spectacularly, the dish is delivered in a bird cage.

Szechuan House

Copy Link

The shiny, oil slicked Sichuan cold plates have probably never been rendered hotter. Our favorite is beef tongue and tripe, with the peppercorns crushed to just the right texture to help them cling to the offal. Founded in 1985, Szechuan House is Flushing’s oldest Sichuan restaurant, and the sautéed lamb and sliced fish in hot chile oil are just as spicy as the cold dishes.

This rare Muslim Chinese restaurant from Tianjin in northern China offers peppercorns in abundance, and a menu that concentrates on lamb, sea cucumber, beef tongue, potatoes, and eggs. For max ma la, check out sliced fish with hot pepper at this delightful, boxy little restaurant.

Walk upstairs past a Tibetan beautician to reach this excellent café, where Sichuan peppercorns are used in abundance, but only in certain dishes. La phing features railroad ties of mung bean jelly in a sauce rife with them. Make sure to ask for extra “emma.”

Xi'an Famous Foods

Copy Link

Starting in a basement food court in Flushing around the turn of the century, Xi’an now boasts 12 locations in three boroughs. All can be counted on to not pull their punches where peppercorns are concerned, but make sure to consult the clerk at the counter to see which dishes have them. “Spicy cumin lamb hand-ripped noodles” is a safe bet.

Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Copy Link

Yes, it’s kind of a long shot, but drop by this Gowanus pie shop (or new locations in Prospect Heights or on the North Fork), and you might find their fabled chocolate chess pie for sale. It has a flaky crust and rich dark custard with cracked Sichuan peppercorns. The peppercorns add an indefinable quality that ramps up the chocolate, rather than diminishing it.

Eastern Ocean One

Copy Link

Sunset Park’s foremost Sichuan restaurant is on a side street and masquerades as a hot-pot spot. The minute the ma po tofu arrives, though, spice chasers can see it’s heaped with crushed peppercorns. The dan dan noodles are also especially good, as are the Sichuan spicy lamb and spicy pig kidney. Don’t neglect specials, such as the razor clams.

Loading comments...

Famous Sichuan

Legend has it that mapo tofu was invented by a woman on the outskirts of Chengdu a century ago. The dish is now available in nearly every city neighborhood — and in this case, Chinatown itself. There’s a thrill to the contrast between the bland and creamy bean curd and the fiery, porky sauce.

Mission Chinese Food

The early days of Mission Chinese were characterized by the wholesale usage of ma la peppercorns in over-the-top quantities, and the current version still uses them liberally. Most notable is kung pao pastrami, a classic Sichuan dish from China with pastrami substituted for chicken, reflecting neighborhood terroir.

Spicy Village

A big metal bowl with stewed chicken and noodles, topped with a pile of cilantro Photo: Eater Video

The food of Henan is presented at this tiny cafe on bucolic Liz Chrystie Park, which specializes in broad, handmade wheat noodles. The dish that caused a sensation a few years back was “spicy big tray chicken,” featuring chicken morsels in an incendiary chile-oil soup, with lots of Sichuan peppercorn — so many that they can be eaten by the spoonful.

A big metal bowl with stewed chicken and noodles, topped with a pile of cilantro Photo: Eater Video

Harold's Meat + Three

An obscure corner of Soho is not the first place to look for Sichuan peppercorns, but this evocation of a classic Southern diner delivers the goods. Among main dishes, the thick Berkshire pork chop comes dusted with peppercorns, delivering a prodigious tingle to the tongue.

Hot Kitchen

This multi-roomed restaurant deserves plaudits for popularizing Sichuan peppercorns in the East Village for the first time six years ago. It was also an early espouser of hot pots. Mung bean noodles with spicy and peppery sauce, shrimp in aromatic wok, and tripe in hot chile oil are recommended dishes — or anything marked with two or more red chiles on the menu.

Málà Project

The name says it all. Trailing peppercorns, this brick-walled café flew into the East Village in early 2016. It sought to popularize the dry hot pot, by which any combination of ingredients can be selected to be stir-fried with plenty of peppercorns and other flavorings. The menu offers a variety of meats loved in China.

Auntie Guan's Kitchen 108

At this Union Square restaurant where much of the food hails from Dongbei, go for the apps featuring oxtail, tongue, and tripe; the dishes marked Sichuan on the menu; and the “lamb chop with cumin and chile sauce.” The latter is shown here, snowed with a powerful spice combo featuring cumin, sesame seeds, dried chiles, and Sichuan peppercorns.

Legend Bar & Restaurant

This Chelsea bar introduced many to Sichuan peppercorns for the first time through its combination of cocktails and eclectic Chinese food. The dan dan noodles are spicier than that staple often is, and both peppercorns and chile oil pack a powerful wallop in “tears in eyes,” a plate of peppercorn-heaped mung bean starch in planks.

Café China

It was around 2005 that Sichuan restaurants started appearing in Midtown catering to office workers, who realized that a ma la kick in the pants was the perfect way to relieve midday boredom. This place provides them in abundance in an adventuresome mix of Sichuan dishes, including appetizers of duck tongue, beef tendon, and, especially, diced rabbit with peanuts.

Savour Sichuan