When I spied a new favorite appetizer — fresh shishito peppers — at the farmers market, I imagined how deliciously they’d combine with big juicy shrimp seasoned with Asian flavors. How about soy sauce, ginger and peanut butter, along with nice crunchy celery and fruity bell peppers — I could almost taste this new creation as I picked out a basket of these petite, bright green peppers and headed for home.
Shishitos are slender, finger-length, mild-tasting chili peppers. You buy them green and cook them quickly in a skillet with a little oil and salt. To eat, hold a pepper by its stem and nibble the whole pod — flesh and seeds. A word of warning: about 10% of the peppers are spicy, so nibble slowly if you don’t like spicy surprises.
Wikipedia says the pepper’s name refers to the fact that its tip looks like the head of a lion (shishi in Japanese).
This dish is fun to eat because it’s packed with flavor and contrasting textures. Other vegetables — red or yellow bell pepper, scallions, and celery — add color and compliment shrimp’s unique taste when paired with garlic and ginger, with a smidgen of chili flakes for pungency and a bit of added heat.
The shrimp stay tender because they’re combined with salt, given a quick water rinse, and mixed with a bit of cornstarch and oil before cooking. You can use this method for any Asian shrimp stir-fry.
Stir-fry dishes cook up in minutes, but the prep takes a bit of time. To help out, I’ve broken the recipe into manageable steps that you can complete at your own speed.
Be sure to offer hot cooked rice or noodles to go along with this dish. Happy cooking and eating!
Shrimp with Shishito Peppers and Peanut Sauce
Makes 4 servings
1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (such as peanut, sesame, or avocado)
The Shishito Peppers
1 pint or 6 ounces shishito peppers, intact
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips (1 x 1/4-inch)
3 scallions, white and green parts, sliced (1/4-inch)
1 cup sliced celery (1/4-inch)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon srirachca sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry or Shiao Hsing wine
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Oil for cooking: coconut oil, unrefined peanut oil, avocado oil, or olive oil
1 cup loosely measured basil leaves (Thai basil, if available)
Hot cooked rice or noodles, for serving with the shrimp dish
1. In a medium bowl, mix together the shrimp and salt. Let stand 1 minute. Rinse thoroughly under running tap water. Pour off as much water as you can and add the cornstarch, and oil. Mix well and set aside, or cover and refrigerate if you’re not ready to cook. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
2. For the shishito peppers, rinse and pat dry. Add the sesame oil to a medium skillet (10-inch) and set the pan over medium heat. When hot, add the peppers and salt and toss well to coat. Cook a minute or two, tossing the peppers occasionally. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook about 5 minutes, until the peppers are tender. Set the pan aside, covered.
3. For the vegetables, prep the list and have them handy.
4. For the sauce, whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
5. For the other ingredients, combine the garlic, ginger and pepper flakes in a small dish, and have the cooking oil handy.
6. To cook, set a wok or large skillet (12-inch) over high heat. When the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and a pinch of salt, and swirl the pan a couple of times. Add the bell pepper, scallions and celery. Stir and toss constantly to combine the vegetables with the oil and salt. Continue cooking, stirring and tossing, until the vegetables are crisp/tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a side dish.
7. Replace the wok or skillet over high heat and add 3 tablespoons oil and a pinch of salt. Swirl the pan twice and add the garlic, ginger and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring and tossing for 2 to 3 minutes, until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through.
8. Add the sauce, cooked vegetables, and basil leaves. Stir and cook until everything is well-combined and hot, about 1 minute. Turn into a warmed serving dish, top with the shishito peppers (which may be warm), and serve with hot cooked rice or noodles.
Greg Patent is a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author for “Baking in America,” a food journalist, blogger, and radio co-host for “The Food Guys” on Montana Public Radio. Please visit his blog, www.thebakingwizard.com, and follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
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