For people with high tolerance for spicy hot food, there’s the Mexican cili relleno. For the rest of us, there’s cheese-stuffed bell peppers.
The crispy crust and gooey cheese inside are almost enough. But, flavor-wise, it’s really the smoky flavor of the bell peppers that makes this dish stand out. So, don’t skip the part about roasting the bell peppers over fire. If you do, you’ll get only half the goodness.
Cheese-stuffed Bell Peppers
Prepare the bell peppers
- Grill the bell peppers directly over fire until the skins are black.
- Turn them over every half minute or so so that the skins char as evenly as possible.
- Place the hot roasted peppers in a container with an airtight lid (a resealable plastic bag will do as well).
- Cover and allow to steam for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. This process makes the peppers blister so that the skins separate from the flesh.
Prepare the stuffing
- Finely slice the scallions.
- Finely chop the bird’s eye chilies and red onion.
- Grate the cheese.
- Place the cheese, onion leaves, onion and chilies in a bowl. Season with some salt and pepper. Toss to distribute the ingredients evenly.
Stuff the bell peppers
- Take the bell peppers out of the container and peel off the skins.
- Using a sharp pointed knife, slit one side of the bell pepper.
- Now, this is where it gets a little tricky. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds and membranes. Do it delicately as the flesh of the bell peppers are already soft and they tear easily.
- Stuff the peppers with the cheese filling. I did this by hand, pushing small amount of stuffing into each pepper little by little.
Fry the cheese-stuffed bell peppers
- Start heating the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan.
- Create your assembly line. Place the flour on a plate. Beat the egg in a shallow bowl. Pour the panko on another plate. Place all three — flour, egg and panko — side by side.
- Holding the stuffed pepper by the stem, dredge in flour, shaking off the excess.
- Dip the floured pepper in the beaten egg, making sure that every inch of the surface is coated.
- Roll the pepper in panko, again making sure that every inch of the surface is coated.
- Fry the stuffed and breaded bell peppers in hot oil (see notes after the recipe), no more than three or four at a time to prevent the temperature of the oil from dropping too much.
- Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the fried bell peppers and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels or napkins.
- Serve the very hot cheese-stuffed bell peppers a la chili relleno with chunky tomato sauce on the side for dipping.
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