Pimientos de Padron

When Josh and I were in Spain in 2006 with my mom, I jokingly stated before we went that I wanted to eat tapas every single day we were there. And surprisingly enough, we did. Whether it was a full meal or just for an afternoon bar snack, we actually did have at least a couple of tapas each day. The dishes we chose varied, ranging from patatas bravas to spanish tortillas to assorted seafood, but there was one tapa that we ordered every time we saw it on the menu – pimientos de padron.

Snacking on pimientos de padron with cava sangria at a bar in Barcelona. Funny story about the cava sangria, but that's best saved for another time

Snacking on pimientos de padron with cava sangria at a bar in Barcelona. Funny story about the cava sangria, but that's best saved for another time...

Pimientos de padron are small green peppers about the same size as a jalapeno, but they are softer and more wrinkly in texture. Padron peppers are really hard to find around here so many times people substitute shishito peppers instead. The cool thing about eating pimientos de padron, however, is that it’s like playing Russian roulette with your mouth. As the saying goes, some are hot and some are not. Although different sources vary on the percentage of spicy peppers, we heard that one out of every 10 are hot.

So we were in Spain for about 8 days, and day after day we ate pimientos de padron, hoping for a spicy one. My mom, who loves spicy foods, was especially eager to taste just how spicy these peppers could be. Day after day, none of us struck gold with a spicy pepper. Then on our last day in Spain, Josh and I had gone off on our own to watch a Barcelona soccer game at Camp Nou. Before the game, we stopped in a crowded restaurant to grab a quick bite to eat. And of course we ordered pimientos de padron.

At this point I had stopped believing that padron peppers could be spicy. All of a sudden, on my very last pepper, my mouth exploded in fiery pain. The spiciness actually wasn’t terrible, it was just the surprise of it that startled me. Josh had a little nibble and confirmed that this was indeed a spicy one. So out of the almost 100 padron peppers we ate collectively, only one was spicy. And sadly, my mom wasn’t there to experience it.

Josh and I have often lamented our lack of access to padron peppers here in NYC so when our friends Felipe and Silva went to Spain to visit Felipe’s family, they brought us back a packet of padron pepper seeds. Not being the best gardener, I gave the seeds to my mom, who has the greenest thumb. From one little packet of seeds, she managed to sprout several pepper plants, and she called us home to NJ when the first crop of peppers was ready to harvest.

Picking out a few padron peppers to cook up

Picking out a few padron peppers to cook up

Although there were several peppers sprouting, only five were ripe for plucking. We cut those off and prepared them how they’re done in Spain, fried in oil and sprinkled with coarse salt.

Frying up the peppers in some oil

Frying up the peppers in some oil

The three of us each took a pepper, clinked them together in a toast, and all took a bite at the same time.

Fried pimientos de padron sprinkled with coarse salt

Fried pimientos de padron sprinkled with coarse salt

Both my mom and I yelped in shock, our mouths on fire, while Josh just calmly chewed on his. The ones we had were SPICY, much spicier than the spicy one I had in Spain. My mouth was numb and tingling afterward. But the flavor of the pepper was exactly as I remembered, a little sweet, a little bitter, and a bit smoky. I nibbled on Josh’s and confirmed that his was most definitely not spicy.

We saved the last two peppers for Josh’s parents, but I don’t know if they ended up eating them and whether or not they were spicy. Even if they weren’t, 2 out of 5 spicy peppers was a huge difference from the 1 out of 100 we had in Spain. It was just such a fun time for us to be able to play the pepper roulette game again, and brought back great memories of our trip. So thanks very much to Felipe and Silva for bringing home a little bit of Spain for us, and we can’t wait until the next batch is ready to harvest!

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One Response to “Pimientos de Padron”

  1. Silva says:

    Yay! I’m glad they turned out so well for you guys! March to December – it’s a long time to wait for a souvenir, but good none-the-less!

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