I added a shishito pepper plant to my garden for the first time this year and it may just be my most prolific vegetable this season. I usually sauté or roast the peppers with soy sauce and other seasonings, but opted to try frying the most recent batch for Shishito Tempura (ししとう 天ぷら).
The Shishito Pepper is a light green (they will turn red with maturity, but are best picked when green), wrinkled pepper from Japan that is becoming increasingly more common here in the United States. In Korea, they are known as kkwari-gochu (꽈리고추). They have a thin skin that cooks quickly and a smokey, usually sweet flavor. They generally are mild, but you will come across one every once and a while (I often see the statistic of 1 out of every 10) that has a surprising level of spice. The peppers can be found in markets featuring East Asian ingredients and some larger grocery stores (they have been in stock at my local Wegmans all summer).
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I used the same batter as for the Jumbo Shrimp Tempura recipe that I posted last year from My Japanese Table. The amount of flour used may need a little adjusting based on humidity level/other factors. If the batter doesn’t stay on the pepper well, add up to another 1/4 cup or so.
I mixed the flour into the egg mixture using a pair of chopsticks until just combined. Leaving lumps behind is a good thing here. It will help create a lightness to the coating. Definitely don’t overmix and only create the cold batter right before frying.
Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to remove the pieces of batter that accumulate in the oil during frying before they become too dark. These fried pieces (tenkasu) can be saved for future use such as sprinkling on noodles like this Hiyashi Tanuki Udon, topping sushi, or other dishes.
I served the peppers with tentsuyu (a tempura dipping sauce- I used the recipe from Just One Cookbook).
Shishito Tempura (Japanese Fried Shishito Peppers)
Adapted from My Japanese Table
Vegetable oil for frying
3/4 cup ice water
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup cake flour or all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
15-20 shishito peppers
Pour the oil in a large saucepan or wok to about 2 inches deep and heat to 360 degrees F.
In a large bowl, beat together the water and egg yolk until frothy. Whisk in the flour and cornstarch until just combined, but not completely smooth, no more than a minute.
Dip a pepper into the batter to coat completely, then place in the heated oil. Repeat with more peppers, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry until golden on all sides, 3-5 minutes, then transfer to a towel-lined plate or rack. Repeat with remaining peppers, letting the oil get back to 360 degrees F between batches.
Serve immediately with tentsuyu or desired dipping sauce.