As addictive and easy to eat as a bag of potato chips, small blistered peppers are wildly popular at the moment, but they are so much more than a bar snack du jour. The first time I ate shishito peppers was at a Japanese restaurant. I quickly became obsessed with the tender, wrinkled skin and mild but deep flavor of the heat-seared peppers and was excited to discover that it could so easily be made at home – for a small fraction of the price!!
Shishito pepper is a sweet, East Asian variety of chili peppers. They are the Japanese cousin to Spain’s famed Padrón peppers. The pepper is small and finger-long, slender, and thin-walled. Although it turns from green to red upon ripening, it is usually harvested while green. The name refers to the fact that the tip of the chili pepper looks like the head of a lion, and in Japanese it is often abbreviated as shishitō.
During our 2016 travels to Japan, we saw several instances of how this pepper was used. For cooking, a hole is poked in the pepper beforehand to keep expanding hot air from bursting the pepper. It would be skewered then broiled (grilled), or pan-fried in oil, stewed in a soy sauce- and dashi-based liquid, added to omelets, or simply eaten raw in a salad or as a condiment. We saw bottles of fermented shishito peppers in stores.
Whether eaten as a snack or incorporated into a main dish, crunchy, sweet shishito peppers are delicious and occasionally pack a punch—one in ten are super-spicy! The occurrence of pungent fruit is induced by such factors as illumination, and other stress may predispose the peppers to turn spicy. Capsaicin forms more easily in hot and dry conditions in the summer, and even experts may not be able to distinguish relative hotness on the same plant. It is thin-skinned and will blister and char easily compared with thicker-skinned varieties.
Look for peppers between two inches and five inches long that are bright green and very firm. They are usually available fresh in grocery stores and farmers markets well into the fall, though you can often find packages of shishito peppers at Asian grocery stores year-round. Keep them in a crisper drawer in your fridge until ready to eat; they’ll be fine for a few days until you get around to roasting them.
Sprinkling coarse sea salt over the grilled peppers gives them a nice crunch and burst of flavor. This charred dish gets a salty, earthy, spicy hit from brown rice miso and fresh ginger and/or lightly toasted black sesame seeds sprinkled all over. Try all these combinations and decide which ones you like the best.
Serve Roasted Peppers Right Away
These peppers are best sprinkled with crunchy salt and eaten within minutes of coming off the heat. Even with high heat and quick cooking, they’ll wilt and lose their crispiness the longer they sit. At a recent get-together, these went from a full bowl to empty in just a couple of minutes!
Shishito pepper – although a pepper is not spicy. Unlike jalapenos and habaneros that are, it is only mildly spicy making it a good substitute for dishes requiring less amounts of spice. It is particularly high in vitamin K, vitamin B6, and vitamin C content. Opt for this healthy snack at parties and wow your guests!
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Blistered Shishito Peppers
- 1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil Organic, Cold Pressed; use any oil with a high smoke point; sesame oil imparts a unique flavor
- 1/2 Pound Shishito Peppers
- 1 Teaspoon Tamari Sauce Alternately, use Coconut Aminos
- 1/8 Teaspoon Coarse Salt If needed
- Wash shishito peppers and pat them dry
- In a thick-bottomed wok or pan, heat avocado oil (or any oil with a high smoke point). When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the shishito peppers
- Cook over medium-high heat on the stove top. Cook the peppers without moving them for a few minutes so they char on the bottom, then stir with a spatula. Continue cooking and stirring every minute or two until the peppers are blistered and darkened all over, 5 to 6 minutes total. Add the tamari sauce and turn off the flame. You can also add gently toasted black sesame seeds.
- Transfer the peppers to a serving dish and sprinkle with extra coarse salt, if needed. The peppers are best when eaten within minutes of coming off the heat.