Equipment: Spice grinder or mortar and pestle
Tips: Pixian chili bean paste (doubanjiang): A salty and spicy umami concentrate made with chiles and fermented fava beans, the paste gives deep flavor to braises, soups and stir-fries. It is sometimes labeled "broad bean" chili paste.
Fermented black beans (douchi): These black beans are preserved in a heady mix of liquor and spices. The beans can be added to an array of dishes to add both salt and flavor. The more familiar Cantonese black beans make a good substitute but are fermented with salt only, so rinse them before using.
Sichuan chile flakes: Whole dried chiles that have been fried until crisp and ground into a mix of flakes, powder and seeds. Korean pepper powder, available at Korean markets and online, is a good substitute.
To grind Sichuan peppercorns, sort and discard any black seeds or twigs. Toast in a dry skillet over low heat until very fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes (do not brown them). Let cool, then grind in a spice grinder or in a mortar and pestle to your desired coarseness. Sift out any yellow husks that don't break down. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 3 weeks.