July 31, 2012

Battle of the Shishito Peppers, Aspen Style

Have you heard of the new thing? That is….shishito peppers, I’m referring to. I am visiting my former hometown, Aspen, and in less than 48 hours I’ve tried shishito peppers at three different restaurants. A few years ago, it was the battle of the truffle fries, you could order truffle fries at any restaurant. They made them by the tub-loads. Now, it looks like it is becoming the battle of the shishito peppers.

For those of you who don’t know, a shishito pepper is a green fingerling-sized Japanese pepper. They are green when harvested; but, turn red as they ripen. They say, (i.e. the waiters and waitresses), that 1 in 10 is spicy. Their name, shishito, comes from the fact that the tip of the pepper’s head looks like a lion (shishito).

Preparing shishito peppers is easy. The more difficult part is finding a place that sells them. Simply put, you heat olive oil or sesame oil in a cast iron skillet and add the peppers, turning them so that they are blistered, charred, and browned. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt to finish.

Back to Aspen’s battle of the shishito peppers. I always knew that they were on the menu at Matsuhisa, and this was where I first tried them over a year ago. Here, they are served with a side of coarse sea salt and a sweet sauce for dipping. There is rarely an occasion where I visit Matsuhisa without ordering their shishito peppers. I crave them. In fact, I recently arrived in Aspen and Matsuhisa was my first stop. Their peppers were the first thing ordered.

After a scrumptious dinner at Matsuhisa, I found myself ordering more shishito peppers the next day at AjaxTavern. I mean, they are fabulous; and, it is better to be hooked on grilled peppers than truffle fries, right? Ajax Tavern serves their peppers the classic way: grilled and sprinkled with coarse sea salt. A perfect mid-day snack to accompany a glass of wine and a bocce game with my friend, Jessica.

On Monday night, I enjoyed a delicious dinner on the patio at BB’s Kitchen. Once again, shishito peppers were on the menu. It is becoming a “thing” here in Aspen. Of course, I had to try them, and these were pretty spectacular. I ate 15 peppers, easily. BB’s Kitchen adds a little more creativity to their dish: they are grilled as usual, but topped with a soy-caramel sauce, sesame seeds, and sea salt. For $8 you get a heaping plate of peppers!

I did a little research and it definitely looks like shishito peppers are becoming the rage in Aspen. In addition to the three restaurants listed above, you can find them at Kenichi, 39 Degrees, and Takah Sushi. Bring it on, Aspen, I’m ready for some more peppers! 

Grilled Shishito Peppers thanks to Brooklyn Farmhouse

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