I was at a fast food restaurant in Hong Kong which was apparently popular for its spicy dishes - there were cartoons on the walls and lots of red peppers everywhere. It looked like a chain, sort of on the level of In-N-Out or Five Guys, but with spicy ramen. My wife and I ordered different dishes and they both were, well, spicy.

But! This spicy-ness was a different sensation than I've had before or since, and I can't find what was causing it! The best way I can explain it is lots of little ants with hot feet running around on my palate. This isn't very appetizing, I realize, but it was delicious - usually, hot foods will spread out evenly around one's palate, but this was (I'll try again) like those "pinhead" toys where each bit of hotness was a separate point (rain on a tin roof?) It was delicious!

I hope I've given enough clues for someone to tell us what the heck this was!

  • 5
    Is it possible it was hot + tingly? (There are things like Sichuan pepper with a numbing/tingling sensation.)
    – Cascabel
    Mar 15, 2015 at 19:46
  • @Jefromi - tingly is a great word for it, yes. Sichuan pepper? Sounds like you're on the right track. Thanks! (answer for upvote and possible accept...?)
    – Ben
    Mar 15, 2015 at 19:48
  • I have no idea if it's a likely ingredient in Hong Kong ramen though.
    – Cascabel
    Mar 15, 2015 at 19:49
  • @Steve Take a look at this: epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/… and this: mattfischer.com/ramen/?p=992 The first thing that occurred to me was Sichuan pepper too.
    – Jolenealaska
    Mar 15, 2015 at 23:27
  • @Jolenealaska - will leave your lips buzzing is spot on. Will try these soon, thank you!
    – Ben
    Mar 16, 2015 at 15:11

3 Answers 3


It's possible it was a combination called 麻辣 (ma-la,) literally "numbing and spicy", a mix of hot chilies and Sichuan peppercorns (which are called Huā jiāo [花椒].)

  • Great! Thank you - I'll give this a try on the weekend!
    – Ben
    Mar 16, 2015 at 15:10

sechaun pepper causes that "buzz"....I remember listening to an NPR program where someone actually did research and through a large sample of tasters discovered the "frequency" of the buzz felt to be around 50hz almost always the same for all people. That's strictly from memory though and the number could be way off. It was interesting anyway.

  • 2
    60hz if it is an american-chinese dish, though! Feb 1, 2017 at 10:21

It is the Sichuan peppercorns. I ate in Beijing and Chengdu. Awesome sensation. Even lips begin to tingle. There is literally nothing else like it.

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