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Georgean's Caribbean Soul - A Hidden Gem in Charleston, SC

I wish Charleston had more places like this. Georgean's is a little (very little) take-out place on the east side of Line Street specializing in West Indian jerk and curry chicken/fish plus mostly-southern sides and occasional fried chicken/fish. I like how the place blends West Indian and Southern cooking, and it's a very legitimate "fusion" to my way of thinking. The cultures and cuisines of the Lowcountry and the Caribbean were historically bound by many ties, the most significant of which was the slave trade. Dishes like rice & peas, pilau, and curry are found in both cuisines. I've even heard tale of (and experimented with recipes for) a lost style of BBQ sauce believed to have once been popular on the Lowcountry's plantations and sea islands that mixed a vinegar base with jerk spices, tomatoes, and fresh peppers. All of which is to say that Georgean's concept of "Caribbean food with southern flair" seems natural, not a stretch at all. It probably helps that the owner is a SC native and the chef's mother (Georgean) is from Trinidad.

Everything is made to order here, so it's wise to place your order ahead of time. And by everything, I do mean everything. I watched the owner actually mash our mashed "yams" and saute our red rice. BTW, this method of preparing red rice was a new one on me - cooked rice was sauteed with a tomato mixture. Not sure if this is a traditional approach, but it still made for a tasty - and very moist - version of the dish.

Without doubt, the star of the meal was the chicken. We tried both the curry and jerk versions. Both were skin-on but boneless and chopped into pieces just prior to serving. There were great charred bits on the outside while the inside remained extremely juicy and flavorful. The seasoning was great, too, with the jerk being a little spicier than the curry. I highly recommend both.

I plan to return on "Throwback Thursday" when they concentrate more on the southern aspect of their cooking with fried chicken as an option and chicken bog and mac & cheese as additional sides.

Note that this place is far outside what one would consider the tourist district. Its location lends to the feeling that it's a true hidden gem in my opinion, but just be aware that some might consider the neighborhood a little down-at-the-heels.

Here's a link to Georgean's FB page: https://www.facebook.com/Jerkatgeorgeans

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  1. Thank you!

    I'll take my Trini wife and we'll give it the once over.

    1. Curry is found in Southern cuisine? Honest question.

      I'd be interested to see a recipe and background for that Low County barbecue sauce with jerk spices that you mention. Sounds good.

      12 Replies
      1. re: Naco

        Country Captain chicken is a mid-century / retro exploration of curry in the South:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Country_...

        It's more Indian than West Indian, I believe. From Wiki:

        "Country captain originated in India as a simple spatchcock poultry or game recipe involving onions and curry and possibly enjoyed by British officers. One theory is that an early 19th-century British sea captain, possibly from the East India Company, working in the spice trade introduced it to the American South via the port of Savannah. The dish remains popular amongst the communities in Mumbai, India.

        The "country" part of the dish's name dates from when the term referred to things of Indian origin instead of British, and so the term "country captain" would have meant a captain of Indian origin."

        1. re: peetoteeto

          You know, I have seen that in old cookbooks now that you mention it.

          1. re: Naco

            In addition to Country Captain, two other traditional Lowcountry curry dishes are hobotee (a curried meat custard) and shrimp curry. You won't find hobotee in restaurants any more, though apparently it was a common feature on Charleston menus only a generation or two ago. You can find a fine example of Charleston shrimp curry at Hank's. Hominy Grill also does a version on occasion as well as featuring Country Captain as a regular menu item.

            As peetoteeto alludes to, how these dishes ended up in the Southern culinary canon is a little uncertain and possibly convoluted. Hobotee (which I love to make at home) originated in Indonesia as bobotok, was brought to South Africa by the Dutch (where it's known as bobotie and is still very popular), and from there presumably made it's way to South Carolina via the slave trade, though the exact route is vague and somewhat problematic.

            While the West Indies shared many of the same influences we did, many of the islands also experienced an influx of immigrants from India, so curry became much more firmly rooted there than here. Our history with curry is subtler and a bit more mysterious, I think.

            1. re: Low Country Jon

              Here's a link to a basic recipe for hobotee: http://southernfood.about.com/od/beef...

              If you don't have leftover meat you can use, you can substitute ground turkey or the like. I find this works really well.

              As far as condiments go, I use toasted slivered almonds and raisins that I cook slowly in port wine until the fruit re-plumps and the wine reduces to a nice syrup. The contrast of savory, spicy, and sweet is what makes this dish special - that and the custardy consistency.

              1. re: Low Country Jon

                Hanna Raskin at The Post & Courier published this piece on hobotee yesterday: http://www.postandcourier.com/article...

                Though I didn't get a hat-tip, this thread was the original inspiration for her piece. She followed up with me on the topic shortly after the discussion here.

                1. re: Low Country Jon

                  Apologies for not citing your post, Jon: The column doesn't leave much room to credit whomever (or whatever) suggested the week's topic. I'll look into whether there's a way to reword the text online. Thanks!

              2. re: Low Country Jon

                I once cooked a curry when my mother-in-law was over for supper. When she asked what it was, I lied and told her it was a South Carolina dish. She then proceeded to eat the stuff up.

                Now being from eastern NC, I thought that I was a champion bullshitter, but even so it's one for the books when you bullshit your own self.

                1. re: Low Country Jon

                  Shrimp curry was my favorite meal at Henry's when I was a kid.Having a waiter in black tie gently placing a cloth napkin in your lap and an exotic dish like shrimp curry was a big deal to a small town ten year old back in 1970!

                  1. re: mollybelle

                    As I understand it, Hank's pays homage to Henry's in many ways, including the name. Henry's was long closed before I started visiting Charleston, but it's always nice to hear the memories of someone who knew the place.

            2. re: Naco

              Unfortunately, the person who researched the recipe and shared it with me made clear it was proprietary and not to be published in any way, shape, or form. He thinks he may use it in a professional capacity at some point. That said, if you take a basic vinegar and pepper BBQ sauce recipe and add some traditional jerk spices, fresh tomatoes (peeled and seeded), and fresh peppers (as hot as you like), you'll be about 90% there.

              As far as the history of the sauce is concerned, I wish I knew more. My source got some of his information from Bill Green, the Gullah renaissance man best known as the master of the hunt at Middleton Place plantation. I'd love to talk with him about it, but so far our paths haven't crossed.

              1. re: Low Country Jon

                Understood. Thanks for the above posts, they are highly informative.

              1. I went there. I had jerk chicken, macaroni pie, lima beans, and rice with vegetables. No doubt it was a lot of food for $10 plus tax. So I was surprised that the dish I thought I thought I would like the least was my favorite: rice with vegetables. It had a char on it that made it down right delicious. The macaroni pie was tasty but not a game changer. The Lima beans needed some cayenne pepper for a kick. The jerk chicken was just good but I can't say I would crave it in the future. It was chicken thighs I'm sure but nothing special that I couldn't do on a grill without jerk. Super friendly people, not withstanding. I can't say I'll be going back but if I was a college student, I'd be there often. And yes, I've lived in the Caribbean. Well, I may go back for the rice with vegetables, now that I think about it. I wanted to like it more, but it just didn't happen.