What Is Low Country Cuisine? | 8 Real Low Country Dishes You Must Try

Rate this post

What exactly is Low Country Cuisine?

Eight Must-Try Foods with Gullah Heritage to Inspire a Southern US Road Trip

Is there anything more authentically American than a good old-fashioned road trip replete with memorable dinners comprised of regional dishes?

The Low Country is an area that stretches along the coast of the Southeastern United States. Here is where silvery patches of Spanish moss cling to beautiful live oak trees and where over 40,000 acres of meandering saltwater marsh, like an unfurling ribbon, previously served as the basis for rice crops, shrimp, oysters, and crab, all of which are now mainstays in Low Country cuisine.

It is essential to understand the topography of the Low Country if you are planning a road trip there.

The area most people think of when they hear the term “Low Country” is the two hundred miles from, but not including, Charleston and Savannah on the South Carolina border to the point of northern Florida. Although the low country of the United States extends from North Carolina to Florida,

Many people are surprised to learn that this includes thirty-four sea islands off the coast of South Carolina, some of which were home to numerous West Africans transported hither and sold into slavery throughout the 1700s and 1800s.

This 200-mile length of history, culture, and natural beauty provides activities for people of all ages and interests.

Do you like architecture? Don’t miss the oyster shell structures.

Do you have a nature lover in your group? Don’t miss the Angel Tree, a live oak tree believed to be 1,500 years old and measuring 65 feet tall and 25 feet around!

Other popular Low Country activities include biking, boating, shelling, ghost tours, visiting many museums, tea plantations, and antebellum houses, and, of course, dining.

Low Country Cooking

There is, indeed, Barbecue. After all, this is the American South. But, there is also the Low Country, which is known for its spirituality, family, and gastronomy.

Gullah cuisine, often known as Southern or soul food, developed from slaves sent to this area to labor in the rice fields. Gullah cuisine and one-pot meals were created on most secluded islands with just the necessities, the skills they carried with them, and seasonal foods from the land and sea.

If you’re planning a vacation to the Low Country, don’t miss these 8 Traditional Low Country Dishes:

Low Country Stew

Almost every coastal locale in the United States seems to have a trademark seafood dish. Crawfish boils are popular in Louisiana, crab feasts are popular in Maryland, and low country boils are popular throughout the South.

Shrimp. Corn. Potatoes. Sausage. Everything cooked together in a single pot with spices and served on a newspaper-covered table. Don’t miss a low country boil if you’re looking for a fun, food-filled occasion.

Although low country boils were historically intimate, at-home gatherings, restaurants increasingly serve them to the general public. This makes Low Country seafood available to everybody!

Bog of Chicken

Chicken Bog, also known as Chicken Perlou (purr-low) depending on where you go in the Low Country, is a traditional South Carolina family-style meal that may be found in many Gullah eateries.

A whole chicken is bogged down with water, cooked, and rice is added until all the water is absorbed, with spices, veggies, and smoked sausages sautéed. If you don’t like fish, this Low Country dish could be for you.

Okra Soup

Okra, like fruitcake, gets a bad reputation before it’s ever tried. I did not grow up in the South, but I remember my mother telling me tales about Okra being slimy, which placed it on my no-eat list.

That is, until I relocated to the south.

Who knew it could be fried, sautéed, and even pickled? Before you dismiss okra as your least favorite vegetable, consider why it was and continues to be an important element of the Gullah diet.

This less-than-popular vegetable in modern mainstream circles was a staple element for Gullah people after being brought over from Africa, when okra went with everything.

Gumbo to the Gullah, a group of people who ate farm to table before farm to table became a thing, was cooked in a tomato and garlic foundation with shrimp and served with a side of rice. The gumbo recipe’s simplicity conceals the intricacies of the taste, making this a must-try low country seafood meal.

Soup with she-crabs

She-crab soup, similar to crab bisque but with a chowder twist, combines crab roe, which lends acidity to the sweetness of crab and sherry.

She-crab soup, found in the swankiest South Carolina restaurants today, is smooth with a subtle orange tint, just the proper amount of spice, and lumps of rich, sweet crab flesh.

If you want something to remember your vacation to the Low Country by, pick up a bag of Gullah Gourmet She-Crab Soup Mix. If you’re in Charleston and searching for a sophisticated, chic courtyard setting to have She-Crab Soup (hey, you’re on vacation, after all), the most well acclaimed spot is 82 Queen, situated at 82 Queen Street in Charleston.

Cornbread in a Cast Iron Skillet

On hot coals, cornmeal, water, and salt are cooked. There’s a lot to know about cornbread, as easy as it seems. For example, when the rest of the nation was growing wheat, corn thrived in the South, despite the humidity, heat, and rain. And, as they say, the rest is history.

Cornbread has developed over the previous few hundred years, with tastes ranging from sweet and moist to dry and crumbly. Both versions are popular, just as sweet tea and unsweetened tea are.

Although the debate continues, most people believe that cooking cornbread on a cast-iron pan is crucial for a good, crispy crust. Sop up the rest of that gumbo or she-crab soup with this Low Country cuisine classic!

Grits with Shrimp

I’m not sure where I’ve been all these years, but I didn’t try Shrimp and Grits until I relocated from Chicago to South Carolina.

It was formerly so common in Gullah cuisine that it was even served for breakfast. Nevertheless, in the 1980s, a Chapel Hill, North Carolina chef altered its fortunes, placing Shrimp and Grits on dinner menus at the greatest restaurants throughout the South.

What occurs in between is up to each chef’s imagination, with grits acting as the canvas and shrimp as the icing on top.

Roasted Oysters

Attending an oyster roast is one of the greatest ways to experience Low Country life while on your road trip through the Low Country.

The pace of life in the Low Country is sluggish. Swinging on the front porch, drinking sweet tea, meeting for Sunday meals, and Southern drawls are common. If you’ve ever attempted shucking oysters, you know how time-consuming the procedure is, which is why oyster roasts fit right in.

As a guest, the greatest spot to enjoy an oyster roast is at Bowens Island Restaurant, a real institution that the James Beard Foundation called an American classic. Consider sun-bleached, naked wood for the perfect fishing camp hut.

Oysters are dug out, cleaned, and cooked over a fire using wet burlap to retain the steam before being stacked high on tables with empty buckets nearby.

So gather around the table, start up a discussion, shuck some oysters, and meet a new acquaintance. Another fantastic Low Country seafood experience.

roasted peanuts

According to legend, the Low Country loves food festivals as much as a blue crab loves a chicken neck. You know what I mean if you’ve ever captured blue crabs with a chicken neck. Now double it by two and envision a cooked peanut festival.

There are many reasons to celebrate Gullah history, music, art, and life with a cuisine spanning from boiled peanuts to shrimp, oysters, soft shell crab, and watermelon.

Remember the song Kumbaya, which many of us learnt as kids at camp? The Gullah people sang it as part of their spirituality and worship!

With gospel, ragtime, soul, and jazz music genres developed out of the Gullah people’s slave position, it should come as no surprise that the craft of basket weaving out of seagrass was born out of the necessity for casting nets for fishing and clothes for warmth.

Food was more than just nourishment for the Gullah people. Their one-pot dinners, shared table, and use of whatever foods they could get from land and sea were ways for them to demonstrate their love and gratitude for family, community, and life. Understanding that the origins of Southern hospitality are well known.

Not everyone travels, but everyone eats, as the saying goes. Food is a common link for everyone, whether you’re traveling with friends, a spouse, children, or many generations, and it’s a terrific source of inspiration for a road trip.

Do you like this article? Check out our other tasty guides:

  • 8 The Best Hilton Head Restaurants

Which of these Low Country Meals do you want to try the most? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below!

All images courtesy of Discover South Carolina. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *