Tiger Peppers, or so 虎皮尖椒 (hu pi jian jiao) are so named because of the characteristic patterns that form on chillies when seared at very high, giving them a ‘tiger skin’ like appearance. Personally, I actually think that ‘Leopard Skin’ might be closer but I won’t quibble.
Anyway, once seared, the chillies are finished with a simple sauce composed of Chinese Black Vinegar, soy sauce, and, usually a little sugar. I am rounding that out with a little chopped garlic here (which is sometimes, though not always, used) but, in any event, the result makes for a very nice appetizer or side-dish…
- Large Green Chillies (see below);
- Garlic, finely chopped;
- Chinese Black Vinegar;
- Soy Sauce;
- Korean Chilli Powder (optional).
Before starting to cook the chillies, you will need to have your finishing sauce on hand. The amount required will depend on the number of chillies you are doing, and you can play around with the relative quantities as suits your fancy. For the three chillies I am cooking, I used 3 tablespoons each of the vinegar and soy, one teaspoon of sugar, and one garlic clove.
Here are the chillies I am using. Any largish green chillies will work but this particular type is a variety of the New Mexico Chilli known the ‘Anaheim’. It is probably about the mildest chilli one can find and is nicely sweet. For preparation, you can, as some do, cut off the tops and remove the seeds, but I like to leave them whole. In either event, you need to brush the outside with a little oil before proceeding.
To sear the chillies, heat a suitable pan over the highest flame until it is all but smoking. Add the chillies and allow them to sear in multiple paces, turning them from time to time. You will see that this operation produces quite a bit of smoke and the ‘smoky’ flavour produced is one of the characteristics of the dish.
To get the chillies soft enough for service would probably cause them to be too charred if kept at high heat so you can either turn the flame down for part of the process, or, do as I have done, and just add water to get some steaming action. Some people cook the chillies until very soft but I like a little ‘bite’ to remain and you can press down with a spatula periodically and get a feel for how things are going. Once softened sufficiently, you can continue searing (if necessary) to get the right ‘look’.
Finally, add your sauce and let it quickly reduce to form a nice glaze. Plate and serve while still hot. If desired, you can sprinkle over a little ground chilli, both to add a little extra fire, and for an attractive garnish.