If every green bell pepper were a red bell pepper, I’d be a lot happier. The red pepper is the ripe fruit—clean, sweet, and clear-tasting, with none of the acrid beginnings or gaseous after-effects of the green. “If I were emperor of the universe” (as a friend of mine likes to say), I would make nine and a half out of every ten bell peppers red and save the green bit for an occasional garnish or for someone I didn’t like.
Cut the peppers in half lengthwise. With a small sharp knife carefully remove the core, seeds, and any fleshy white ribs, and cut the peppers into cubes about 1 inch square. If you are not proceeding to cook them immediately, fleck lightly with water, bag airtight in plastic, and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. Pat dry before using. (In this sort of simple stir-fry, I much prefer to use the cut vegetable almost immediately. The juices which appear on the flesh as soon as it’s cut seem too precious to lose.)
Mince the garlic and chop the coriander just before using.
Have all the ingredients within easy reach of your stovetop. If you plan to serve the peppers hot, put a shallow serving bowl of contrasting color in a low oven to warm.
Heat a wok or large, heavy skillet over high heat until hot enough to sizzle a bead of water on contact. Add 1½ tablespoons oil, swirl to coat the pan, then reduce the heat to medium. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle one bit of garlic, add the garlic and stir gently until fragrant, about 5 seconds, adjusting the heat so it foams without browning. Add the pepper, then toss briskly to glaze with oil, regulating the heat so it sizzles without scorching. If the pan becomes very dry, dribble in a bit more oil from the side of the pan. Sprinkle with salt, then stir to combine.
When the peppers are evenly salted and hot to the touch, splash in the soy. Stir to mix, splash with vinegar, then stir to mix—all within seconds, lest the liquids evaporate. Sprinkle in the coriander, toss briefly to combine, then cover the pot. Remove it from the heat and let it sit for 1 minute to cook the peppers through from their own steam.
Uncover the pan, sprinkle the peppers with sesame oil, then stir two or three times to mix. Scrape the mixture into the serving bowl, turn some of the peppers prettily bright side up, and garnish with the sprigs of coriander.
Serve hot, tepid, or at room temperature. Stir before serving to redistribute the seasonings.
Leftovers stay tasty 1–2 days, refrigerated and tightly sealed. Eat at room temperature or slightly chilled and stir just before serving.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.