Today I’m celebrating on three counts: I found some beautiful shishito peppers and stunning fresh water chestnuts in the market, I’m typing this with two hands, and I can (just barely) lift the Nikon again, so the quality of pictures here can improve. Other than that, I’ve been neglecting you while we tried to thrash out whether Shel’s health will permit us to return to France for a few months, as planned. The answer is, we still aren’t sure, but we’re making a decision on Tuesday after we see Shel’s doctor, because if we do go, it’s in just a couple of weeks, and we’d really have to get cracking. Don’t you agree that all of that calls for a really good dinner?
If you’ve never had shishito peppers, try to find some right away, at the Asian grocery nearest you. Normally they’re grilled whole and sprinkled with salt, and just popped in the mouth, one, two, three, or as many as you can eat. Their particularity is that some are neutral, some are warm, and the odd one is hot, and I’ve heard that those thrill-seeking Japanese, probably the same ones who eat the poisonous fugu fish, like playing hot pepper roulette. Anyone who eats jalapenos will not find even the hottest shishito to be incendiary, but the thrill of the chase will still be there.
So I had those peppers, and a pile of water chestnuts, and some juicy and inviting pork shoulder steak to play with. The result was this rather homely
but addictively appetizing stir fry that I recommend to you for a chilly evening when the thrill of the pepper chase will warm your spirit.
Shishito Stir Fry
12-16 shishito peppers
12-16 fresh water chestnuts
1 lb pork boneless shoulder steak
1 small sweet red pepper
4 T canola oil, divided use
2 T soy sauce
2 T Shaoxing wine
1 T fish sauce
2 tsp black sesame oil
1 T crispy fried garlic (Vietnamese or Chinese)
3 T peanuts, roughly chopped
You must have all the ingredients ready in advance, as once you fire up your wok this dish comes together in about 5 minutes. Begin by mixing together, in a medium bowl, a little marinade of 2 T canola oil, the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, fish sauce, and sesame oil. Cut the pork into bite-sized pieces and toss them into the marinade, mixing to coat all the meat. Let this rest on the counter as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Peel the water chestnuts and slice them across the equator, so that you get 4-5 round slices from each one. Let the slices sit in a bowl of cold water as you proceed. Cut the red pepper into short strips. Chop the peanuts.
Heat your wok and add 1 T canola oil. Toss in the whole shishito peppers and cook until they soften and begin to char, adding the red pepper strips about halfway through the cooking. Sprinkle the peppers with salt and remove them from the wok, setting them aside.
Add the remaining T of canola oil to the wok and toss in the pork, with its marinade. Stirring rapidly, cook the pork very briefly*, just 2 minutes or so. Add the peppers to the wok, and the drained water chestnuts, and toss in the crispy garlic and the peanuts. Stir together to combine the flavors and serve immediately.
*Pork shoulder can be cooked for just a couple of minutes before it toughens. Once that happens, you have to cook it for hours to get it tender again, so really, just a minute or two in the wok!