All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.

2013-10-18

Shishito sweet pepper & Fushimi togarashi sweet pepper









Shishito (right)
Fushimi togarashi (left)

(Japanese varieties of Capsicum annum)


Shishito

The size of your pinky or index finger, shishito (abbreviation of shishitogarashi) is one of those inexpensive vegetables that always seems to be available in Japan, especially during warm seasons. Shishito has thin, relatively soft walls, and tastes mild yet slightly bitter. While it is often classified as a sweet pepper, it is not as sweet or juicy as you might imagine from those large, thick-walled peppers in American grocery stores. For me, it is closer to a Anaheim pepper. From a local vegetable shop in Tokyo, I once had a shishito that was very spicy like a serrano pepper, and I've heard that occasional encounters with hot shishito were common in the past.

Shishito is often quickly grilled and added as a green element to a number dishes, just like blanched snow peas, green beans, leafy greens or blanched or grilled okra. As one of key ingredients, it is used in a similar way as piiman Japanese green pepper, which also has thin walls. It is great for simmering (usually after first being sautéed), stir-frying, deep-frying and roasting. Because of shishito's small size and fast cooking, it is handy for bento lunches or a quick dish. The seeds inside are soft and taste mild, and they are usually not removed except when using shishito as a case for other ingredients. When cooking (especially roasting or deep-frying) whole shishito, poke a few holes or make a cut to prevent it from bursting.

Take a look at the top part of shishito. Does it remind you of anything? The shishi in shishito literally means shishi lion, an imaginary beast that resembles a lion. The vegetable is said to be so named because resembles the shishi lion's nose ... which sounds pretty odd. Personally, I can’t see the resemblance between the little vegetable and big lion's nose, but that is the story.

As you can see from the bright green color, shishito is rich in Vitamin C (57 mg/100 g) and carotene (530 µg), which help with immune function, recovery from fatigue, prevention of cell aging and beautifying skin. Its capsaicin promotes the metabolism and helps burn fat. Shishito is also rich in potassium (340 mg; works to keep sodium in balance, reduce swelling and lower blood pressure). Fiber content is 3.6g.  

When shopping for shishito, choose smaller/skinnier ones with a firm, vivid green and glossy skin. Those you can easily bend are obviously old.

Shishito grows relatively fast and does well in our cool summers (I grow it in an unheated greenhouse). It is very easy to grow (self-pollinates) and productive.

27 kcal/100 g; 91.4% water, 1.9% protein, 0.3% fat, 5.7% carbohydrate, 0.7% ash


Fushimi togarashi

A slender sweet pepper designated as a traditional Kyoto vegetable. Fushimi togarashi has been grown since the Edo period (17c-19c) in the Fushimi region of Kyoto. Today, main production areas include Kyoto's Tanba region as well as Gifu prefecture. Fushimi togarashi has an aromatic sweet taste. While this tasty pepper is as versatile as shishito, roasting is the best way to enjoy it.

There is a similar vegetable called Mangaji togarashi, which is a cross between Fushimi togarashi and a California Wonder pepper. It was created in the Manganji region in Maizusu, Kyoto, in the early 20th century. Manganji togarashi is larger and has slightly thicker walls than Fushimi togarashi.


Recipes with shishito/Fushimi togarashi

Try shishito/Fushimi togarashi in the following recipes

(Last updated: August 29, 2017)

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