The name hu pi (tiger skin) comes from the mottled markings that the qing jiao (green peppers) get from the super heated wok. I serve them with plain rice, for a quick and delicious vegetarian lunch or as a side for any grilled meat.
The peppers used in Sichuan are a general cayenne type called “cow-horn” or “goat-horn” peppers. Use any sort of long, hot cayenne-type green pepper that you can find in Asian markets, milder peppers of the general New Mexico type or sweet and succulent Japanese Manganji peppers, which I like to use whole. Smaller thin-skinned peppers that blister easily, such as the Spanish Padrón and the Japanese shishito, are also good choices but should be used whole (with stems on). The total weight should be about the same in all cases.
I make this dish in a flat-bottomed carbon-steel wok, but a large cast-iron skillet will do. It is essential to use the mellow-flavored, slightly sweet Chinese black vinegar from Chinkiang (Zhenjiang), which is available in any Chinatown supermarket or grocery. Slightly reminiscent of balsamic vinegar, but more sour and pungent, it melds perfectly with the soy sauce to make a lovely pan sauce.
- Rinse the peppers under cold running water and pat dry. With a small sharp knife, slice off the stem ends and pointed tips of the long green hot peppers. Slit open lengthwise; remove the veins and seeds if you want to tame their heat. Cut the peppers in half crosswise. If working with manganji, Padrón, or shishito peppers, leave them whole.
- Heat a well-seasoned 14-inch/35.5 cm wok or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until fragrant and rippling, tilting the pan to oil the sides. Add the peppers and rapidly stir-fry, tossing and turning with a spatula (preferably a wok spatula) for about 5 minutes, or until dark, blistered patches appear on the peppers’ skins. Add the garlic and stir-fry for another 20 seconds. Pour in the soy sauce and vinegar; continue to stir-fry while it comes to a boil. Taste for salt and acidity, and add more soy sauce or vinegar if desired. Using a slotted spoon or Chinese spider, transfer the peppers to a serving plate or shallow dish. Let the pan sauce return to a boil, then pour it over the peppers and serve at once. You can also refrigerate the peppers and serve them cold or at room temperature as a side dish like an escabeche.
Reprinted with permission from Peppers of the Americas: The Remarkable Capsicums That Forever Changed Flavor by Maricel E. Presilla, copyright © 2017. Published by Lorena Jones Books/Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.