Where was I when shishito peppers went from exotic to ubiquitous? At least so it seems judging by the Portland Farmers’ Market this past week. Table after table was selling them, almost as many farmers as were peddling the state’s traditional August classics – wild blueberries and corn on the cob.

In Japan, their native land, shishitos are battered and fried for that country’s fantastically light and delicate tempura. You can also find them in a restrained dashi-based broth scattered liberally with bonito flakes. Or at an izakaya, a cozy pub, where they are stacked on a short skewer – alone or alternating with chunks of soy-marinated chicken – and grilled. A first-rate drinking snack.

Grilling blisters these (usually) mild and delicate peppers, and most recipes you see in the United States take advantage of that appealing quality. Actually, it’s mostly just one recipe I ever see, but it’s a ridiculously easy and delicious one:

Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add a little oil. When the oil is hot, add the whole peppers and fry, shaking the pan or stirring periodically, until the shishitos begin to char and blister, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle them with good, coarse salt and eat them – in a single bite – hot or at room temperature. They are addictive. And far healthier than most foods (M&M’s, Fritos…) that I say that about.


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