Pimientos de Padron: The Pepper You Haven't Tried but Should!
While living in Lisbon, Portugal I came across some unfamiliar thumb-sized bright green peppers in the local supermarket called pimientos de Padron. My boyfriend informed me that these little peppers are essentially a form of culinary Russian roulette because although most are sweet and mild, about one in ten are so hot that it will make my mouth will feel like it’s on fire. Sold! I absolutely love spicy food and the challenge of this popular Spanish tapas dish is enticing. So we took two-dozen home and fried them in the traditional Northern Spanish (Galician) way. Hesitantly, we picked each one up by the stem and ate them one by one. Not one fiery hot pimiento de Padrón turned up. Although we really did enjoy this tasty appetizer and just thought, “better luck next time!”
Pimientos de Padrón have become a regular appetizer at my dinner table. We even order them when we see them on a menu such as at Restaurante Rubro at the Campo Pequeno building in Lisbon where they bring them out on a hot frying pan. Unluckily (or maybe luckily) after hundreds of these little thumb-sized peppers, we have yet to come across just one hot pimiento de Padrón! We no longer eat each one hesitantly but now just pop them in our mouths. Maybe one of these days the little devils will surprise us and one of them will burn one of our tongues off. Until then, we’re enjoying this tasty and healthy tapas dish.
There is a popular Galician saying that says, “Os pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non," which translates to "peppers from Padrón, some are hot and others are not". In fact, there is no way to tell a fiery hot pepper from the usually sweet and mild one other than to just bite into it!
A Padron Pepper is actually a fruit and its seeds were brought to the town of Padron in Galicia by Franciscan monks from Mexico. When cultivated for many generations these tasty little peppers can love their spicy gene - that explains the lack of spicy peppers I've encountered!
Japanese shishito peppers are very similar to Padron peppers and are more widely available in the US. In NYC, you can pick them up at "Yuno's Farm" at the Union Square Greenmarket.
Have you come across a fiery hot pimiento de Padron?
Ingredients for Simple Tapas Recipe
- 2 cups Pimentos de Padrón
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon sea or coarse salt
- Wash the peppers and dry them with a paper towel.
- Poke each pepper with a fork twice on each side, making small holes.
- Place a large frying pan or a grill over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive, and heat until it’s warm.
- Add the Pimientos de Padrón to the frying pan, press on them with a spatula and turn them occasionally, until they’re drenched in olive oil and wrinkly looking. Add the garlic, sprinkle some salt over the peppers liberally and keep turning both the Padon peppers and garlic until the peppers look scorched.
- Take peppers off the pan or grill, sprinkle more salt generously once again, and serve while hot. Enjoy!