We’ve never seen Shishito peppers in the store, and it wasn’t until we got them in our weekly share that we’d even heard of them. We figured, though, that some of you might be seeing them in your farmers’ markets, and are wondering just what they’re like and what could you do with them. If that’s the case, and you didn’t ask the grower, feel free to read on for our take on using Shishito peppers fried in a light, tempura like batter.
First, if you’re wondering, these peppers are not hot. At all. We’ve heard that about 1 in 20 may be hot, but we’ve not encountered any that have been spicy. Instead, they seem to have a lot of pepper flavor without the heat. Think of Anaheim peppers without the heat. Second, Shishito peppers are small, about the size of your finger, so it’s not as if you can really use them for something like chili rellenos or anything like that. Third, the seeds are mild, too, so you can eat them right along with the pepper. Together, these traits are crying out for turning Shishito peppers into a small appetizer by coating and frying them. That’s what we do.
The recipe for the batter is one we invented, so it’s a Scratchin’ Central original, but it does contain all the basics for a light tempura-like batter. If you don’t have a favorite tempura batter, feel free to try ours. If you’re happy with your tempura batter, you’re all set.
Use a spice mix that you like. We thought about a bit of red pepper, some celery seeds, with onion and garlic powder, but ultimately went with smoked paprika. It’s one of our favorite spices to use right now, giving a hint of smokiness to just about anything. The egg comes from happy hens, of course. And, while it’s not necessary, we make our own buttermilk (easiest recipe we have on this site) so we know it’s just cultured milk. Oh, the baking powder is there to help the batter puff up while frying. If, for some reason, you’re out of baking powder, omitting it will be fine.
Procedure in detail:
Piece peppers. Us the point of a sharp knife to piece each pepper near the stem. This way your peppers won’t explode while you’re frying them, sending hot oil everywhere. The small slit allows the steam to escape from inside the pepper, removing the potential for a mini steam explosion. Sometimes it’s the little tricks like this that make a recipe worth reading.
Heat oil. Place a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat and add enough oil to reach about 1/4 inch. While the oil is heating, you should have enough time to put together the batter, but still watch it so it doesn’t start smoking (or catch on fire, which is worse).
Mix drys. In a shallow bowl — it’s easier to coat the peppers in a shallow bowl — mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, and spice.
Add egg and buttermilk. Stir the egg and buttermilk into the flour to make a thin batter. It should be thick enough to hold onto the pepper, but much of the batter should run off the peppers when lifted. You can test it for consistency by trying a practice dip and adjusting the amount of liquid or flour, but the amounts listed are close to perfect.
Dip and fry. Grasp a pepper by the stem and dip and roll it in the batter. Lift, shake off excess, then place the pepper in the hot oil. Repeat until the pan is comfortably full. Let the peppers fry for about 3 to 4 minutes on a side, turning gently with a slotted spoon. Some of the batter might slip off the peppers when you turn them; that’s just the price you pay for pan-frying.
Drain. If you wish, drain briefly on paper towels, then serve hot with soy sauce.
By default, this is pretty much our favorite way of cooking up Shishito peppers. That’s because it’s pretty much the only way that we’ve made them. As we implied above, this is a new pepper for us, so we have yet to explore other possibilities; we just make a quick batter, pan-fry, and munch. Sometimes simple is good. Four stars.