I just moved to Berkeley from Boston and have been looking for some ingredients for Chinese cooking. The really cool Sichuan Chili Bean Paste uses Broad (Fava) beans rather than soy beans, but I suppose I'd settle for the soy bean type.
I tried 99 Ranch and several groceries in Oakland Chinatown and could not find either the peppercorns or the good Sichuan bean paste. Maybe I just overlooked them but my wife who speaks Mandarin was with me and we asked clerks at all the groceries; none could find them. My guess is that these groceries serve a Chinese population that is not from Sichuan and is not so driven to get the authentic ingredients--all my Chinese relatives marvel that I bother to cook spicy hot pot stock from scratch, they all use pre-mixed stocks.
Anyway do you have any ideas about where I might get these ingredients? I had no trouble obtaining them in Boston, so with the huge Chinese and foodie populations here I'm assuming there are a bunch of places I can go to (SF? Peninsula?). Bonus points if you can suggest a place close to Berkeley where I live.