Shishitō peppers are the hot new pepper in California—which is surprising since most of them are very mild. Miriam and Chris requested them for her birthday dinner this Saturday. Jan and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about, so I cooked some up this week.
These peppers are long—2-4 inches—and they are picked when they are still green. Eating them is a bit like Russian Roulette. While most of them are only slightly hotter than a bell pepper, about one in ten is spicy—like a mild jalapeño. Their thin skins make them a snap to prepare—a little oil, a little heat, a little seasoning and eat.
Note: Apparently, they get their name from the fact that if you look down on the stem head it looks like a lion (獅子 shishi)—with the frilly edge of the bud (the calyx) being the mane—and the word for chili pepper (唐辛子 tōgarashi) being abriviated to tō.
Karl’s Pan-roasted Shishitō Peppers with Lemon
15-20 Shishitō peppers (about a quarter to a third of a pound)
2 Tbs. peanut oil
2 Tbs. lemon juice, separate uses
large pinch coarse sea salt (to taste)
1. Rinse the peppers and pour a bit of oil in your palm. Rub the each pepper so that the skin is well oiled.
Tip: You want 4-8 peppers per person, depending on their size and people’s hunger.
Note: Do not cut off the stem of the pepper or remove the seeds. Leave the pepper whole, but when you eat them do not eat the bud end. Hold the pepper by the bud and consume the chili—seeds and all—in one or two bites and discard the bud.
2. Put the oiled peppers in a skillet over medium high heat and cook them, stirring frequently, until the skins are charred in spots—about 15-18 minutes.
Tip: You do not want them blackened and burnt, just a bit charred.
3. When the peppers are just done sprinkle them with one tablespoon of lemon juice and toss the pan to coat the peppers.
4. Transfer the peppers to a serving bowl and sprinkle them with the rest of the lemon juice and a good pinch of salt.
Tip: These peppers do not really need a garnish. If you really wanted to, you could use them as a garnish.
5. Serve as an hors d’oeuvre or starter.