Beer-battered Shishito Peppers with Sake-Soy Dipping Sauce
The shishito is a petite and slender chile pepper grown widely in Japan. Shishitos are sweet most of the time, but occasionally a rogue one will be fiery enough to surprise you.
Shishitos are my favorite part of going out for tempura. Often I wish I had a plate of only fried shishitos. Luckily, making them at home is a whole lot easier than it sounds. All you really need is a sturdy pot or skillet, a generous amount of neutral oil, and a bit of patience. Make sure the oil is hot when you add the peppers, and they will turn golden brown in just a matter of minutes.
Look for shishitos in Asian markets and farmers markets around town. The shishito plant is also easy and quick to grow. It does well in a container and produces tons of peppers throughout the summer months.
Serves 6 as an appetizer
Neutral oil, such as canola or peanut, for frying
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne
1 12-ounce bottle of light beer, chilled
½ pound shishito peppers, washed and thoroughly dried
Heat at least two inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until the oil reaches 350°F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels or a brown paper bag.
While the oil heats up, make the sake-soy dipping sauce: Stir together the sake, soy, and ginger. Sprinkle in the chives.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and cayenne. Slowly whisk in the beer. The batter should be a little lumpy.
When the oil is ready, dip each pepper in the batter and then carefully place it into the oil. Add only as many peppers as will fit in a single layer without crowding the pot. Fry them for 3 - 5 minutes, until golden brown, then use a slotted spoon to transfer to the prepared baking sheet and let cool slightly.
Serve hot, with the sake-soy sauce for dipping.
(The used oil can be cooled, strained, and reused several times. Store it in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place.)