Shishito peppers...are the little peppers that could. A staple in Asian cooking the peppers got their name ‘shishito’ with a Japanese accent in reference to the tip of the chili pepper which looks like the head of a lion.
These skinny, finger-long peppers are thin-walled and glossy with a unique ‘withered’ look. Fruit is typically 3 to 4" long and turns from green to red as its ripens, but it is traditionally served green.
The peppers make the perfect appetizer, pairing well with your beverage choice--be it beer, wine or cocktails.
They are extremely versatile and can be prepared to reflect any cuisine. They can be roasted, fried, blistered, sauteed, charred, served tempura-style, covered with cheese--blue, Parmesan, curds--and flavored with anything you crave from cilantro to ginger.
Shishito peppers are trending on menus across America. So while these little peppers, for the most part, are mild on the Scoville scale (one out of every 10 offers some heat), they are hot in the marketplace.
Recently I stopped by Eight Bar and Patio, the newly named “downstairs” bar and al fresco destination at Maple & Ash (8 W. Maple) in the Gold Coast neighborhood to sample their new menu.
The menu, developed by chef Danny Grant, is more casual than Maple & Ash upstairs--a perfect fit for outdoor dining.
Originally getting all the buzz was their $18 hot dog, with bacon, foie gras, black truffle and a housemade cognac mustard sauce. This has recently been replaced by a charred bratwurst--and, of course, their award-winning cheeseburger carried over from the old menu is still a crowd favorite.
But what stood out for me was their shishito pepper appetizer. The peppers are roasted, topped with Parmesan cheese and served with a housemade garlic aloli sauce.
With the rotating menu, the preparation for the peppers is often reimagined. The chef is currently serving the versatile peppers with Miso Aioli and Sesame seeds ($8).
Shishito peppers are perfect accompaniment to any of Eight Bar's unique beverage offerings listed on their drink menu.
Eight Bar is open for lunch, brunch, happy-hour and late-night menus. 8 W. Maple St., 312-944-8888.
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