They call them shishito peppers in Japan, pimientos de padrón in Spain, peperoncini in Italy. All of them are a variety of green little peppers and about one out of every ten is spicy. No matter what they are called, Torontonians seem to still like them.
They started being a trend a couple of years ago and these days many restaurants still offer shishito peppers. Why? Because they perfectly match with the new way Torontonians go dining. It is a good experience. You can share them, they are easy to eat, and it’s fun, because one out of ten will be hot, so people like to order them.
Several restaurants in Toronto still include in their menus these little green peppers that can be called shishito (Japanese), padrón (Spanish) or pepperoncini (Italian), and even though some of them can be hot, very hot, there are not jalapeños (the Mexican spicy ones). You can find pimientos de padrón in places such as Carmen or Patria ($10 and $8 each tapa, respectively) or shishito peppers in Bar Isabel (8 bucks per tapa).
So even if they are not a trend anymore, they are still in demand; but a demand that cannot always be satisfied; because as Carmen specifies in the menu, they serve them just “when available”.
St. Lawrence Market
Whether you call them shishito peppers or de padrón, they both came from the very same supplier: Phil’s Place at St. Lawrence Market. It draws my attention to the fact that the stall is not in the main level, where most of the people get stuck shopping for groceries. I discover these peppers discretely located downstairs, away from the big bustle.
Jon Kim, owner of the stall, is the only one in the whole market selling shishito peppers, as he calls them; $14.99/lb. “Would you like some?”, he offers me smiling while he goes on explaining that they come from Mexico and California. “We use to have them just eight months a year”, he says putting half a pound into a brown bag but grabbing one with two fingers to point out that now “they are starting to grow them in greenhouses”.
Would that confirm our suspicions about the little green peppers? “I don’t know about trends, but I know about business. And even though we have sold them since almost three years ago, we’ve been selling more in the last year”, he says as he puts my groceries in my bag. He wishes me a good day but he says, always smiling, that he doesn’t know where else this product can be found. “Thank you Jon”.
On my way home I wonder if every Spanish restaurant in Toronto has pimientos de padrón in their menus. After checking it online, I find out that none of the classic ones, like Casa Barcelona or Cava, serve them (though both have pimientos de piquillo, the green large peppers) but they do the new ones such at Patria, Carmen or Bar Isabel… one thing is sure about these green little peppers: they are kind of new in the Torontonian dining scene. Have you tried them?