Chile Japones (a.k.a. santaka pepper or Japanese pepper) is an Asian spice staple often used in Japanese and Chinese cuisines, especially Szechuan and Hunan dishes. They are “fire bringers” – providing heat to a recipe without a lot of flavor complexity that could potentially muddle the overall flavor balance of a dish. The japones pepper’s slim form and moderately high heat also allow the chili to be very useful for liquid infusions, like hot pepper oils and vodkas. They share a similar heat profile to chile de árbol– to which they are often compared – but the japones is nowhere near as hot as its fiery Asian cousin, the Tien Tsin pepper.
Chilies Japones are thin, long chilies like cayenne peppers, growing to about two inches in length. They age from green to red, growing in heat as they mature.
If you’re seeking authentic Asian cuisine spice, the Chile Japones should most definitely be on your radar, especially if Thai or Tien Tsin peppers are simply too spicy. But enjoy these chilies as a cayenne pepper substitute, too.