Lee Bros. 15 dishes to discover
interviewed by Chrysti Edge Shain
Brothers Matt Lee and Ted Lee grew up in Charleston. When they went away to college, they missed the Southern foods they knew and loved. So they formed a mail-order business for Southern staples—The Lee Bros. Boiled Peanuts Catalogue (boiledpeanuts.com)—and wrote cookbooks and articles about food and all things Southern. With so many soul-satisfying dishes to order from our finest restaurants and our humble country lunch counters, the brothers from Charleston agreed to help narrow the list.
Benne Wafers These light little sesame-seed-filled crackers are a traditional South Carolina snack. Find them at shops all across the Lowcountry.
Butter Beans The Southern version of lima beans, any meat-and-three place worth its salt will have them on the menu, especially in the summertime. And for an upscale version, butter bean “pate” is starting to appear on menus from Charleston to Greenville.
Buttermilk Pie If you grew up here, your grandmother made this custard-like pie for Sunday dinner. It’s the simplest, most delicious slice you can get. Fortunately, chefs have rediscovered it.
Crab Cakes South Carolina’s waters are full of big blue crabs, and crab cakes appear on menus as sandwiches, appetizers and main courses. Just make sure they’re house-made.
Fried Fish and Shrimp Platter Whether it’s served on a paper plate or fine china, make sure it’s hot, fresh and crispy.
Hoppin’ John This classic side dish is made with black-eyed peas, rice, ham, celery and spices. It brings you good luck to eat it on New Year’s Day. The rest of the year it’s just yummy.
Okra Soup If you’re lucky enough to see it on a menu, by all means order it.
Oysters If the month has an “R” in it, it’s oyster season in South Carolina. Spots all along the coast serve them up roasted, raw, fried or just about any way you’d like. Oyster roasts help Lowcountry natives survive those cold months between Christmas and spring.
Peach Cobbler It’s hard to go wrong with this summer staple in a state that grows so many peaches. Some of the best versions are served right at the orchards or farmers markets. Now that’s farm-to-table goodness.
Pulled-Pork Barbecue with Mustard-Based Sauce This spiced-up brownish mustard sauce is a trademark of the area around Columbia, and it’s not anything like the kind you get back home.
Red Rice A staple in Lowcountry kitchens for generations, this is made from rice, tomato sauce and bacon.
She-Crab Soup Very rich, creamy and topped with sherry.
Shrimp and Grits There are as many recipes as there are fireflies on a Southern night. With luck your version is served over Anson Mills grits and has ham, local tomatoes and Palmetto Sweet onions.
Sweet Tea Not from a mix, not unsweetened, not hot. The real thing is brewed on the stove, stirred by hand and served in a tall glass filled with ice. Your trip won’t be complete without some.
Shrimp Burgers With the abundance of shrimp in South Carolina, you’d think these would be on every menu, but they aren’t. If you can’t find them while you’re here, make them at home to eat while you’re looking at your vacation photos. Here’s our recipe: