I first tasted these amazing Japanese peppers at this wonderful restaurant in San Diego, and it was one of those food revelation moments for me. Trust me, these are nothing like bell peppers. These thin-skinned peppers are such a perfect snack or appetizer (and very addictive) when sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with crunchy sea salt flakes. I have tried other, more complicated preparations of these peppers, but none are better than this classic version in my humble opinion. Fortunately, they are in season now, and I have been seeing them at farmer’s markets and even grocery stores. And even better, this recipe requires no prep work!
Be warned: these peppers have very variable spiciness (even on the same plant) which is determined by their degree of capsaicin formation, which apparently depends on a lot of variables including light exposure and various stresses to the plant. Eating them is a bit of a game of roulette – the ratio of spicy to sweet peppers can vary from 1 in 12 in a good batch to 1 in 3 in a fiery one!
This same recipe can also be used for padron peppers, which come from Spain and are smaller in size (and tend to be less spicy then shishitos) and can be found prepared this way in tapas bars all over the country in the summer months. This recipe makes enough for an appetizer for 3-4 people, though given how addictive they are, you may be tempted to eat them all yourself!
- About 3/4 pound of shishito peppers, washed (easy to scale up quanitities as needed)
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt to taste (high quality salt is key here – I recommend a crunchy, flaky variety such as Murray River or other fleur de sel type salt).
In a large (12″) frying pan or wok, heat the peppers in the oil over medium-high heat. As the heat gets higher, there will be some spattering and popping, so I recommend putting the cover on! Periodically, mix the peppers around so that they cook evenly on all sides.
When the peppers have lightened in color, softened, blistered and are turning brown in areas, they are ready. The smallest ones may be ready first and can be removed so the larger ones have more time to cook. Prepare a plate with a paper towel on it to absorb any excess oil and place the peppers on it as they come out of the pan. Sprinkle the peppers liberally with sea salt. Serve warm, with cold water on hand to drink in case you get a spicy one! Enjoy!