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Sep 23, 2013 10:01 AM

Traditional Charleston foods help: Huguenot torte, hobotee, chicken bog

Hi there,
Heading to Charleston this weekend to track down some local/traditional Charleston dishes for my website, Eat Your World. Some of the dishes on our list seem quite readily available while others are nearly nonexistent! I can only find Huguenot torte available at one restaurant, Middletown Place, as well as chicken bog (Mamma Brown’s in Mt Pleasant). Hobotee doesn't seem to be on any menus, so we might have to give that one up...

So, do any of you locals know of other (or any) places preparing these dishes? Also, how similar is shrimp bog to chicken bog? I see that Hominy Grill does a shrimp version...

Many thanks

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  1. Hi Loumarie.Middleton Place is the only restaurant I know that has Huguenot torte as a regular menu item, though it makes an annual appearance at various church tea rooms in the spring.

    Hobotee, once a staple on Charleston menus a few decades ago (or so I've been told) is nowhere to be found now. Too bad, because it's a great dish (my opinion being based on the versions I've made at home).

    Bog is basically a type of purloo that's prepared with extra stock to give it a wet or boggy texture. That being said, if you look up recipes for chicken bog online, you'll find that the amount of stock called for varies widely. Thus, some versions of bog are quite wet (stew-like) while others are closer to a classic (dry) purloo. (As a side note about the nomenclature, the further north you go into the Pee Dee region, the more likely you'll hear a dish referred to as chicken bog instead of chicken purloo even if there's not always a recognizable difference between the two.) What Momma Brown's serves is a chicken purloo and is identified as such I believe. Big Gun Burger Shop downtown makes a very nice chicken bog, but it is on the dry side of the spectrum as well. The Shelter in Mt. Pleasant also serves chicken bog. I haven't tried it yet so can't comment on its consistency. Hominy Grill's shrimp bog is moister and more boggy - altogether more what I associate with being a true bog. It's very similar to a chicken bog but with shrimp instead of chicken (and probably shrimp stock instead of chicken stock but can't say for sure).

    Hope this helps!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Low Country Jon

      Very well informed reply Jon, many thanks. I've never seen real chicken bog outside of the PeeDee, Horry county especially.As you noted, different from true pillau. My mother was from Timmonsville SC and cooked both types of chicken/rice dishes. She never confused them.

      1. re: Low Country Jon

        Thank you, this does help. I think we'll start w/the shrimp bog at Hominy and see if time permits a trip to Mt. Pleasant to try one of the chicken varieties for comparison. I like that Hominy uses Carolina gold rice too. Quick question: there is also a chicken country captain on the menu there, made with jasmine rice. That is a version of chicken bog/purloo too, no? (Still, the shrimp bog sounds like it might be a better option there...)

        1. re: loumarie

          Country Captain would not be considered a purloo because the rice is prepared separately from the other ingredients. It's basically chicken in a tomato-curry sauce served on top of rice. It usually contains currants and is garnished with almonds, although there can be lots of variations when it comes to the accompanying "condiments." While not a purloo, It is very, very tasty.

      2. As a post script, I should note that some of the "soul food" restaurants in town like Bertha's, Martha Lou's, and Gullah Cuisine may serve a purloo on a given day but it varies and is hard to pin down. Worth a call ahead if you're interested.

        Also, red rice and Hoppin' John are technically purloos as well, but you'll never see them referred to as such. Red rice is ubiquitous in area seafood and soul food joints but almost always as a side, as is usually the case with purloo and Hoppin' John when they make an appearance.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Low Country Jon

          Interesting. Red rice & hoppin' John are also on our list. Thanks for the clarification!

        2. i apologize for length, however, this topic touches my heart.

          Maybe you've noticed a thread running thru these replies:
          traditional Charleston/low country food isn't often found in 'fine dining' restaurants here, sadly.
          Certainly some 'white tablecloth' places serve some dishes, but you're most likely to find traditional low country food in places where few upscale tourists choose to go: Workman's Cafe, Martha Lou's, Dave's Carry-Out, etc - see the links below for some suggestions. Sean Brock is to be thanked for reviving interest and serving things like Sea Island Red field peas and Carolina Gold rice. Some places are doing likewise. But most of the dishes you describe are just not considered sufficently 'up-scale' although the well-known food writers such as Sarah Rutledge, Blanch Rhett and so many others in the 19th century served them at fine dinners.
          And they serve southern food (a good thing) rarely Low Country.

          When Edna Lewis was at Middleton she worked with local cooks and some of those recipes remain on their menu - it may be worth calling and asking their exec. chef if traditional dishes are cultivated @ Middleton and if not, why not?

          I seldom/never see shrimp pie, Otranto Fish Stew, rice birds or any of the many rice receipts (okra pilau) on menus. The Tomato Shed serves a terrific tomato pie (made with biscuit cracker).
          If more tourists knew more about traditional Low Country food and asked for it, we might see it back on menus.
          beyond the hot mess now known as 'shrimp 'n grits (known simply as breakfast shrimp here for decades and decidedly not up-scale).

          Now, fancy dining and hard sell marketing drives the foodie trends, but Charleston still has groups and a few people who serve food with sincerity and less hoopla.

          It sounds as tho 'Charleston Receipts has had an impact on you.

          Try to find food writing by Verta Mae Grosvernor,
          John Martin Taylor, Damon Lee Fowler, the Lee Brothers and Sallie Ann Robinson. Low country food is not the same as 'southern food' altho there is certainly commonality between them.

          best of luck. Please share more about your trip.

          15 Replies
          1. re: kariin

            Wow, thanks so much for the thoughtful response. Lots to consider. It's so unfortunate so many of those dishes are not readily (or at all) available...I've been looking at so many menus lately and see so many repeats of the same dishes (she-crab soup, crab cakes, okra soup, pimiento cheese, tomato pie; yes, shrimp & grits)--this at first struck me as impressive that the regional cuisine is so widespread, but I understand it really only goes so far. The dishes I asked about are ones that have turned up in our usual pre-trip research, and I'm sure they are just the tip of the iceberg. (Our website focuses exclusively on regional/traditional dishes around the world--what they are and where to find them--but we are unfortunately limited by what the restaurants are offering.)

            I will continue researching & asking around. Thank you for the links!

            1. re: loumarie

              She crab is very low country....when it's good it's so good(see wee)...when it's bad it is bad!

              1. re: LaLa

                What do you think of the she crab at 82 Queen? I've read such mixed reviews of it, but everyone seems to agree the soup & crab cakes are very good, and that's what we'd get there. Also interested in their tomato pie, which I'm only seeing on a handful of menus.

                1. re: loumarie

                  I prefer the she crab at SeeWee. 82 queen is ok but off my radar.

                  Dixie Supply has a pretty good tomato pie...I make it or buy from the tomato pie guy in Pawleys Island so I don't really look for it out.

            2. re: kariin

              If there are any specific recipes for these lost classics in Charleston Receipts, I'd love to hear which ones I should make. I find that these type of cookbooks offer recipes that range from sad to sublime. Would love the direction.

              1. re: kariin

                Thanks, Karrin. It's definitely nice to have the input of someone who grew up with these dishes. I moved to Charleston from NC about a decade ago and have been on a steep learning curve with regard to local foodways ever since. I'm with you - maybe such discussions can raise awareness and get some of these great dishes back on Charleston restaurant menus.

                1. re: Low Country Jon

                  Jo, where in NC are you from...I don't remember if I have read that anywhere or not.

                  I like a good chicken bog in the winter months. We did that at home also. I also like purloo.

                  My wife is Caribbean...and she makes pelau a lot. Every culture (and regions within a culture) has a similar rice dish.

                  1. re: JayL

                    Originally from Greenville and also spent years in the Greensboro area and Charlotte area. My family has deep roots in Franklin County though I don't get up there much these days since both my grandparents passed away.

                    Interesting that you grew up with chicken bog. Where in NC was that? I figured bog territory must extend into NC at least as far as Wilmington since rice cultivation traditionally extended that far north, but I wasn't sure just how far.

                    Yes, one of the things I love about purloo and bog is that they are part of a very ancient global tradition. My wife is Filipino, and when my FIL first tried my chicken bog, he said it reminded him of the FIlipino dish lugaw (although lugaw more closely resembles congee in that it's cooked until the rice falls apart).

                    1. re: Low Country Jon

                      Bog wasn't really a regional dish where I grew up, but we did cook it on occasion. I am from just southwest of Greenville in northern Wayne County.

                      1. re: JayL

                        Jay, I guess you grew up somewhere between Greenville and Goldsboro then? I have fond memories of going to the air shows at Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro when I was a kid.

                        BTW, what island is your wife's family from? Maybe we should all get together and have a Southern/Lowcountry/Indo-Caribbean/Filipino feast!

                        1. re: Low Country Jon

                          I am from Pikeville...she is from Trinidad.

                            1. re: mollybelle

                              Mollybelle, you're invited too! And Jay's going to smoke a pig for us! Right, Jay? ;-)

                        2. re: Low Country Jon

                          I spent some of my growing up years in Chadbourn & Whiteville, NC in the mid-70's. Chicken Bog was very popular there. :-)

                          1. re: AmyInNC

                            Ah, good to know! I'm planning on heading to the Bog-Off in Loris, SC in a couple of weeks, and I hope to see some NC representatives in the cooking contest.