A few months back I asked for help finding Sichuan peppercorns in San Diego. 99 Ranch, Zion, North Park, Vien Dong and several other groceries all said they didn't carry it, or didn't know what it was. I spent quite a while looking at all the shelves to see if I could spot it, with no luck.
But on an early-morning trip to 99 Ranch Market today, I found it! Two different brands of Szechuan peppercorns are now stocked on the bottom shelf of isle 6 (the spice section); both are under $2 for 4 ounces.
If you have tried to make Thai or Chinese recipes without this ingredient, you are missing out. I tried it today, just for fun, and there really isn't anything that tastes like its lip-tingling, numbing, minty heat.
I also noticed that 99 Ranch started carrying Thai wild lime leaves and Ngo Gai (sawtooth herb) in the plastic-wrapped vegetables section. And to think I had to check six Vietnamese markets before finding those last time!