Shishito Peppers (獅子唐辛子)
With loads of Vitamin C, blistered Shishito Peppers make a delicious appetizer or side dish that can easily be prepared on the stovetop in a matter of minutes. For the most part, these Japanese peppers are mild, with a floral fragrance, but there’s always one or two in a batch that packs in a surprising amount of heat.
Why This Recipe Works
- Using a very hot cast iron or carbon steel pan mimics the intense direct heat of a charcoal grill, allowing you to “grill” the peppers on your stove.
- Dry roasting the peppers without any oil keeps the oil from splattering and smoking. It also allows the pan to reach higher temperatures, which gives a better char on the peppers.
- Oil can be added after the peppers are roasted to help any seasonings you add to adhere to the peppers.
Ingredients for Making Shishito Peppers
- Shishito Peppers – I’ve used Japanese Shishito Peppers for this, but other small mild cultivars of peppers such as Padron Peppers will work.
- Oil – The oil helps any seasonings you add, stick to the surface of the peppers. Because the oil is added after the peppers are cooked, you are free to use any type of oil, including flavored oils, which typically have a very low smoke point and are not suitable for cooking. I used good fruity olive oil.
- Seasonings – I used smoked sea salt and Meyer lemons to season the grilled peppers, however, you can season these with anything from curry powder, to smoked paprika, to furikake.
How to Cook Shishito Peppers
Shishitos are a versatile pepper that can be used in a large variety of preparations, including stir-fries, stews, and tempura, however, the most popular way to eat them is to grill them. I’ve developed an easier method that you can do on the stovetop and still get a nice char.
First, you want to wash them thoroughly, as the folds in the peppers can hang onto dirt.
Then you’ll want to poke a hole in them to vent steam, so they don’t pop while they cook. You can do this with the tip of a knife or by using a toothpick or skewer.
Next, the peppers go into a dry cast iron or carbon steel pan heated over medium-high heat until it is very hot. I don’t recommend doing this in a stainless steel or non-stick pan as the former will discolor at high temperatures, and the later will release toxic chemicals.
Let the peppers roast undisturbed in a single layer until the skin starts to char and blister on one side, then flip them over and let the char on the second side.
Finally, you want to roll them around and char any sides that got missed.
When they’re cooked, transfer the peppers to a bowl and toss with your favorite oil and seasonings.
Other Japanese Appetizer Recipes
Shishito (獅子唐辛子) peppers are a Japanese cultivar of chili pepper that are small and relatively mild. Shishi (獅子) means “lion” in Japanese, and the peppers get their name from their wrinkled appearance, which looks similar to stone lion statues found in shrines around Japan. The second half of the word “to” is an abbreviation for togarashi (唐辛子), which means “chili pepper” in Japanese.
Most Shishito peppers are mild and have little to no heat. However, one in seven peppers or so can be very spicy. This makes the shishitos fun to eat because you never know when you’re going to get a hot one.
Shi-shi-to has three syllables, and each one is pronounced as follows:
shi like sheet
shi like sheet
to like toad
Both Shishito and Padron peppers are cultivars of the Capsicum annum species, and they are very similar in appearance and taste. Shishito peppers tend to be slightly smaller and more wrinkled than Padrons, and they have a more floral aroma. Padrons tend to be a little plumper with thicker flesh and thinner skin. They both work equally well for this recipe.
Art & Food
A few weeks ago I connected with an amazing watercolor artist who specializes in food illustrations. Inspired by her work, I asked Kailene to collaborate on this recipe with a painting of the blistered Shishito peppers. She also sent over an awesome time-lapse of the process, which I’ve included in the video below. She posts two mouthwatering paintings to Instagram each week (@kailenefalls), and if you need an illustrator go check out her website.
coarse sea salt
Lemon for garnish
Heat a cast-iron or carbon steel pan over medium-high heat until scorching hot.
While you wait for the pan to heat up, wash the peppers thoroughly and use a toothpick, skewer, or knife to poke holes in them.
Add the peppers to the pan in a single layer and let them dry roast until they start to char and the skin starts to blister.
Flip the Shishitos over and blister the second side.
Roll the peppers around the pan to ensure they’re evenly browned.
Transfer the Shishito peppers to a bowl, drizzle with the olive oil and salt (or the seasonings of your choice), and toss it to coat.
Serve with a wedge of lemon.