Americans might not be drawn immediately to something that makes their mouth go numb, but Szechuan peppercorns, an Asian spice that does just that, is gaining popularity among some chefs. Szechuan peppercorns are a key ingredient in Chinese five spice — which usually contains star anise, cloves, cinnamon and fennel as well — and the source of the numbness you might experience when eating a really good kung pao chicken. “It’s a different spice than most people are used ...

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