Tiger skin peppers, also called hu pi jian jiao (虎皮尖椒), are a well-known dish from Sichuan. The name comes from the fact that when the peppers are seared in a hot wok, they turn a color that looks like a tiger’s coat. You may need to use your imagination, but it’s a cool name for a dish that spicy food lovers will love.
I had tiger skin peppers for the first time at a Sichuan restaurant with a vegan friend who loves spicy food. It reminded me a lot of pimientos de padrón, a Spanish tapas dish that uses the mild padrón pepper, pan-fries it until it blisters, and serves it with sea salt. It’s funny how two cultures have similar ideas.
Long green hot peppers and Chinese black vinegar (we use the Chinkiang brand) are used to make “tiger skin peppers.” Long green hot peppers are also the best choice for pinxtos, one of our favorite foods in Madrid, but that’s a different story.
We took out the pepper cores and seeds for this dish with Tiger Skin Peppers to make it less spicy. On the other hand, some peppers aren’t spicy at all, so that you can taste the peppers you will use before making the dish to see how spicy they are (or roll the dice). Any way you look at it, making pan-fried long green hot peppers at home lets you cook them the way you like. Every time I’ve had this dish in a restaurant, the traditional way to make it was with the leaves, seeds, and core.
Let’s get to the recipe! Once you’ve accomplished it the first time, it only takes a few minutes to get ready.
- 12 long hot de-seeded green peppers (cut in half)
- 3 teaspoons of hot water
- 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
- 3 tablespoons of sea salt and Chinese black rice vinegar (to taste)
- 3 tablespoons of peanut or avocado oil (any oil with a high smoking point and light flavor)
- Start by getting your peppers ready by taking out the seeds. Don’t touch your eyes or face until you’ve washed your hands well with soap and warm water.
- Cut the peppers in half after taking out the seeds.
- Mix the water, sugar, vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Spread the oil around the edge of the wok and heat it over medium heat. The oil should be hot, but it shouldn’t be smoking.
- Put the peppers in the wok and spread them out, so they all touch the wok’s surface.
- Start tossing the peppers with your spatula after about a minute to make sure they cook evenly. If you gently press a pepper against the wok and feel it sear and try to bounce back, you know the wok is hot enough. If the peppers look about to burn, turn down the heat. For another 5 minutes, keep tossing and turning the peppers to ensure they get a nice “tiger skin” sear on all sides.
- Once all the peppers look like “tiger skin,” turn up the heat to medium-high and add the vinegar mixture. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds, or until some of the sauce is gone.
- Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.