Author Notes: Anywhere peppers grow people use a variety of cooking methods on them. Grilling works best on smaller bite-sized peppers that will fully cook through before the skins turn into a carbonized mess.
The version proposed here is in the classic shio yaki ("salt grill") style, a typical offering in izakayas and yakitori restaurants throughout Japan. This dish could easily set you back $8-10 at some fancy restaurant in SF, LA, NYC, etc.
You can successfully grill these over gas but I like a wood fired charcoal heat source. For centuries people grill with wood that is abundant in their area. I use mesquite or oak charcoal, the two most prevalent varieties of lump charcoal sold here in California.
Pepper selection: Use whatever frying peppers are available in your area. I grill shishi tōgarashi or padróns because both are widely available through much of the year; both varieties grow very well here.
Marinating and seasoning: while a multitude of marinades and sauces are at your disposal, I prefer letting the pure flavor of the prime ingredient shine through so I do not add anything before grilling peppers. You could brush with olive oil during the grilling but I find this unnecessary.
Skewering: it’s your choice what to use. I don’t care much for metal skewers. They are practical but the food often seems to slip and rotate around the skewers (even if they are the flat ones). I use bamboo skewers. You can presoak these in water to minimize the amount of charring. If you use longer peppers, they will have a tendency to rotate on them like propellors; you can eliminate this by using double skewers. For small peppers like shishitos and padrons, I just use one skewer (it’s easier to pick up and eat). I also find the aesthetics of wood skewers to be far superior to metal. It’s best to assemble peppers of similar diameter on the same skewer so they reach doneness at the same time.
The lazy way: you can lay down a sheet of aluminum foil on the grill and cook the peppers on that. Don’t pile them up in multiple layers nor crowd the peppers otherwise they will steam instead of grill. This removes the laborious prep but also the charm of the skewers. Of course, you could enlist aid from other people (like kids) to help with the skewering.
Finishing: sprinkle with salt and serve with a lemon wedge. Again, there are a large number of other things that could be added, seasonings, flavorings, etc. and for sure, some would want to drown them in the ubiquitous ranch dressing but I prefer the simple flavors to shine.
I serve grilled peppers with other things; they are really meant to be just a bite or two.
Ingredient quantities are per person. This recipe can scale up to the point where the prep work becomes too laborious or time consuming. —cv
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 10 min
frying peppers (shishi-tō, padrón, etc.) per person
lemon wedge (per person)
- Skewer peppers.
- Sprinkle with salt and serve with lemon wedge.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Grilling Recipe