After being introduced to Sichuan cuisine in New York, I've become obsessed with the "ma la" flavor that comes from the Sichuan peppercorns, and have tried a number of strategies to get it in my home cooking, none with any success. I first tried buying some Sichuan peppercorns at a local spice market and grinding them in a Krups grinder, but the resulting powder was unpleasantly sandy and gritty, and it seemed to require a great deal powder to create only a bit of flavor.
I then tried creating a chile-and-peppercorn infused oil using this recipe: http://redcook.net/2011/03/28/sichuan... -- and had some success, but the sichuan peppercorn flavor is still very mild and disappears entirely when I add it to a dish like a stir fry or a home made Mapo Tofu.
What am I doing wrong? Do I, perhaps, just have a bad batch of peppercorns? Is there a good place to buy them online? Or, alternatively, if there's a prepared product (such as an oil or powder) that would give me satisfactory results, I'd happily use it. I'm not a fancy cook, I just want to get that "ma la" flavor in my simple home stir fries!