In one of my earliest posts, I tried lao ma chao shou and was nearly numbed to death by Sichuan pepper (ma = numbing). It turns out Lao Ma means 'very, very ma'. Now that I can understand a bit more Chinese, I can hear people ordering the level of numbing and spice on their dumplings. They might say wei ma, zhong la, for a little numbing and medium heat. 'Lao ma' means the most numbing you've got. I still order it this way.