Shishito Peppers - A Japanese Treat

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Shishito Peppers

My farmer's market has an Asian veggie stand. You can find all sorts of greens, bitter melons, eggplants, herbs, lemon grass, daikon radish, and all different varieties of bok choy. Once, I picked up a pack of fresh red chilis and asked the farmer if they were really hot.

He looked at me and asked, "Chinese?"

I said, "No. Japanese."

He shook his head "No"...[you aren't allowed to buy these]

I totally understood. The Japanese can't take the heat!

Japanese cuisine isn't spicy like Korean, Szechuan Chinese and Thai food. Of course, we have wasabi horseradish that can clear out your sinuses, but Japanese food doesn't use much chili powder. There is a great seasoned chili pepper called Togarashi that is perfect on top of a hot bowl of udon noodles though. It's serious yum.

It always cracks me up that when I go to Curry House for Japanese curry I can order it "HOT" because it's for the weak Japanese palate!

Shishito Peppers
So...if you aren't familiar with this pepper...I'd like to introduce the Japanese Shishito Pepper. According to Kitazawa seed company, these are "mini, sweet-hot, thin-walled green pepper is popular in Japan." They grow in the summer and are perfect appetizers. You might be able to find them at a sushi bar or izakaya place (izakaya is Japanese tapas/appetizers/bar food).

I think they are from the bell pepper family, but they don't taste like the green bell pepper (which I hate).
However, sometimes you'll hit a hot one! They are really thin skinned and I can casually polish off a whole bunch. Luckily, my father grows a couple rows of them and my mom spends her summer delivering brown bags filled with shishito to relatives and church friends.

These peppers can also be grilled, toaster-oven broiled, pan or deep fried. In addition to this simple appetizer dish, shishito peppers are fantastic tempura items. Gourmet has a recipe for Flash-Fried Shishito Peppers with Sea Salt but this is deep fried.

I don't have a recipe...but here's what I do:

Shishito Peppers

Find shishito peppers in a Japanese store, farmer's market, or grow them yourself.
Wash. Don't need to seed or cut.
Heat a pan really hot.
Add olive oil.
Turn on your fan or your smoke alarm might go off.
Add peppers. Stand back because splatter action will occur.
Fry up until charred a bit.
Add sea salt.
Eat immediately.
Don't eat the stems/ends.

Shishito Peppers

Pick up some Shishito Japanese Peppers at the Japanese market or order it instead of edamame this summer at your sushi place!
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Audrie said... [Reply to comment]

LOL! That's cute the grocer asked before responding! So if it had been me asking (I'm Chinese), he'd probably have told me I can eat them like candy hehe I love spicy, the hotter the better, but my husband can't take it so I've had to lay off the spice. If I find these peppers I'll have him try them though!

Susan C said... [Reply to comment]

I just recently read about these for the first time on Food Gal's blog.

Sounds like I've really been missing out. I have to try these!

Maria said... [Reply to comment]

Looks like a treat to me! Great photos!

emiglia said... [Reply to comment]

Haha... that's a super cute story. I have the same problem going into Indian restaurants--in London, they always ask if I want it "Indian spicy." I of course have to say no, but here in Paris, I ask them to spice it up, and it's never hot enough!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Mmmmm, these look so tasty. I wonder if I've had them before in tempura plates? It was fun to learn about these little peppers. Thanks for the lesson, FL! P.S. Elwood ran away but finally came home after being gone for a little over 24 hours. Naturally, we were very relieved and happy to welcome home our prodigal son who was hungry and thirsty. Miss you! Rach

Nutmeg Nanny said... [Reply to comment]

I have never heard of these peppers but they look delicious. Your story reminds me of the many times getting Indian food where they refuse to give me hot curry but say they will just give me American "hot" curry because I won't be able to handle the real Indian heat...haha cracks me up every time. Although they are probably right because many times my stomach is in pain a few hours after eating their delicious curry.

Sheila said... [Reply to comment]

Ooh! These peppers are good and now I know what they're called. Thanks!

I've had them at Japanese bbq restaurants. I remember the first time they told me it was a pepper, I was a little hesitant thinking it would be spicy especially since it's whole but it's not at all.

2.46% said... [Reply to comment]

I love shishito peppers and your dish looks delicious.

The one decent Asian food we have in Lexington is Japanese food due to the large Toyota plant that is nearby. When they opened up the Toyota plant, they actually brought over their own sushi chefs and restauranteurs! And, of course, I always have a small bottle of Togarashi handy.

eatme_delicious said... [Reply to comment]

I don't like things too spicy so these look like they'd be good for me!

Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

Just to let you know I had these for the first time yesterday at the izakaya -- they were so good!! They were cooked like you said but served with a sprinkling of bonito flakes. I would not have ordered them had I not read this post so thanks, Mary! Now I'll be on the look-out for these in the market.

Truth Serum said... [Reply to comment]

I live on the East Coast, and saw these at the Asian Market. Didn't know what to do with them, but they looked so good I bought them. Your recipe sounds ideal!

arnie said... [Reply to comment]

Those are just overgrown Spanish Padron peppers!

The Food Librarian said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for your comment. Like other foods, these are called one thing by one culture and another by a second culture. It's my understanding that the shishito is a cousin of the padron. The seed companies sell the seeds separately. The Los Angeles Times Food Section article "Walk on the mild side" by Ana Ortiz Longo (July 27, 2005):

"About 2 to 4 inches long, shishito peppers are similar in flavor to pimientos de Padron, a smaller green pepper from Galicia, Spain."

Either way, I'm sure both are delicious...but if you are in a sushi place, you'd have to order the shishito peppers because they probably wouldn't know the padron name. :)

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks for the tip. I love these peppers too. I like to add ginger and shrimp and stirfry with a little oil and finish it with sea salt. Delicious!

orchidgrrl nyc said... [Reply to comment]

Happy to read this -- just found these for the 1st time ever today at the Greenmarket, and the sign suggested cooking them just as you do! I thought they looked a bit like darker skinnier pepperoncini, so the comment about Padrone makes sense. Hope we'll see more of these in markets soon!

Andrew B said... [Reply to comment]


Thanks for sharing! I just wanted to mention that they taste great if you cook them in toasted sesame oil. Also, they are delicious with a bit of sea salt and lemon or lime juice.

besalu said... [Reply to comment]

I read another blog that stated they got to Japan by way of Portugal..makes sense, the town of Padron in Galicia is just north of Portugal..I'd guess they migrated down from Padron and in the end changed shape a bit from climate, terra etc..

All I can say is i'm so happy to find shishito, i'm in CA and padrons are only here for a month or 2, from one company and are 7 bucks a 1/4 lb!

great post..thanks!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Terrific post. I just bought an already-fruiting shishito pepper plant (from Walter Andersen Nursery in Poway, CA) and googled the pepper to find out more about it.

I'm a Cajun, so I can take hot peppers, but I love cooking and pickling the milder varieties, too. Now I have a recipe I can use them in. Sounds delish!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

They taste like Spanish Padron peppers thou the spanish ones are smaller sometimes very hot, and sometimes mild and delicious. I think the ones from Spain are more interesting.
Minabo Taduro

Liz said... [Reply to comment]

There is a restaurant here in Denver (The Corner Office) that serves these as an appetizer (fried and lightly salted). It was the first time I ever tried shishito peppers. I'm hooked!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

shishito are defenitly not a bell pepper family neither genetics. they are a japanese version of the best pepper in the world PADRON ... Padron pepper was imported as a result of trade by christopher columbus with the indegenis people in Mexico , he took to spain and they even named a whole town padron in northwestern spain famous for its peppers , japanese took the seeds and planted in japan and that resulted in the shishito , the flavor is slightly different than padron because of the japanese climat and soil is quiet different from spain or mexico . both of them are delicious .

G Wiz said... [Reply to comment]

Just found these in my local Asian market - had no idea if the were hot or mild, just got them for seed. However after looking them up in 'Peppers of the World', I had to see how to use them. I'm eating them now, fried as above with sea salt. They are great!

Sam mauldin said... [Reply to comment]

The Pearl restaurant in Nantucket served these with fried calamari...delicious!

the soul of japan said... [Reply to comment]

These are excellent. I love these over yakitori and beer.

palerider said... [Reply to comment]

I grow Shishito for the Japanese neighbours. you should have seen their faces light up when I surprised them. A prize in japan. They eat them tempura style. They're the hit of the town now.

Cattus said... [Reply to comment]

I have read in numerous places that you shouldn't eat the stem of shishito peppers. But nobody says why that is. I was popping them into my mouth whole until I read this and can't figure out why this warning. Any answers?

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