September 12, 2018

Food for Thought

This is my new find in Chinatown. (Swipe to see the package.) Málà peanuts. I love it. As you can see, slivers of chili peppers and Sichuan peppers are mixed into peanuts. You do not have to eat the peppers since the peanuts themselves are already somehow flavored with them. But I like eating them combined.

I discovered Sichuan peppers only a few years ago. They weren’t easy to find at the supermarkets in Chinatown as they aren’t labeled clearly for those of us who do not speak Chinese. But now, I visually memorized the Chinese characters for málà 麻辣 which is the sensation you get when you eat Sichuan peppers.

As a 51-year old, it’s not so often that I come across a completely new taste sensation. I was mesmerized by the málà experience. It feels close to spicy but it’s a different sensation. In fact, my wife who generally cannot eat anything spicy loves Sichuan peppers.

Some of my friends cannot understand the appeal of málà; they complain that it just numbs your mouth and blunts your ability to taste other flavors. It’s true but it also has a unique flavor and fragrance that cannot be separated from that numbing sensation. Perhaps taste is an emergent phenomenon whose components cannot be separated. 1+1 makes 3 and that extra 1 cannot be isolated without the combination of the two elements.

Coffee is a good example. Caffeine by itself has no flavor; it just makes you feel speedy. And, when you drink your coffee with your nose plugged, you can’t taste it. The taste of coffee cannot be isolated from the caffeine and the aroma.

A personality is a similar phenomenon too. People often attempt to change the undesirable aspects of a person without realizing that eliminating them would change the entire personality (taste) of that person. What we enjoy in a person is an emergent phenomenon that cannot be isolated from its components. You either love her as she is, or you don’t

#mala #sichuanpepper #peanuts #spicy #numbing #taste #sensation #chinesefood #nycfoodie #sichuan #hotpepper #pricklyash #chilipepper #麻辣