These six Charleston snacks are Lowcountry favorites.
When you get the munchies in Charleston, forgo the popcorn, potato chips and granola bars, and try some of the snacks and desserts that are regional favorites.
First to dispel a myth: Many boomers may have developed cavities munching on penny pieces of Charleston Chew, sold in movie theaters and “five and dimes.” Although the nougat-flavored candy covered in chocolate has an indirect connection to the city of Charleston, Charleston Chew it is NOT a regional snack.
The chocolate bar, created in 1922, was named after the Charleston, a dance whose popularity soared in the 20s. However, the dance was named after the city and the candy was named after the dance, making the snack once removed.
So what do Charlestonians snack on and what should you try when visiting the Holy City?
Here are a few favorites:
1) Benne Wafers
Where tasted: Charleston City Market
These highly addictive, thin, buttery crackers are made with toasted sesame seeds. Slaves originally brought sesame plants from Madagascar when they left West Africa and planted the nutty seeds throughout the South. Eating benne wafers is supposed to bring good luck.
Where tasted: Market Street Sweets, Charleston
We were walking along Market Street, the street that runs parallel to the downtown historic Charleston City Market. A young woman lured us into the store by offering us free samples of some warm, delicious pralines, made fresh here daily. French settlers originally brought the recipe for pralines to Louisiana and it spread like wildfire through the South. French Huguenots were some of the earliest settlers in Charleston.
3) Boiled Peanuts
Where tasted: Harris Teeter Supermarket, Johns Island
We found these in a pot of hot water in a Harris Teeter supermarket but hot, boiled peanuts are ubiquitous in Charleston. Another tradition brought from Africa, they are unroasted nuts, often prepared with savory spices. Probably most interesting, as long as its not done to excess (which can lead to intestinal problems) they can be eaten with their shells, which are said to be high in anti-oxidants.
4) Pimento Cheese with Barbecue Pork Rinds
Where tasted: Home Team Barbecue, West Ashley
Served on an enormous baking tray, these zesty pork rinds (also called cracklings) are made of fried pieces of pig meat, skin and membranes. The tasty accompanying pimento dip is made with cream cheese, mayo, dried tomatoes and pimentos. The appetizer pairs well with beer or any other alcoholic—or non-alcoholic drink for that matter.
5) Dried Okra Chips
Where tasted: Charleston City Market
Fried, breaded okra is considered a delicacy in the South. However, you can find bags of tasty chips, made from dried okra stalks, at the market along with other interesting vegetable chips.
6) Coconut Cake
Where tasted: Peninsula Grill
Anyone with a sweet tooth for coconut and vanilla will love the legendary, 12-layer Peninsula Grill Ultimate Coconut Cake®, which has been trademarked by the U.S. Patent Office. The not-to-be-missed-if-you’re-in-Charleston indulgence has been featured in Bon Appétit, Saveur, Martha Stewart Living, The New York Times and Vogue. A trip to Charleston is inexpensive relative to the cost of ordering the cake for home delivery. The 12-pound cake (which sells for $12 a slice at the restaurant where it is served with strawberries) sells for $130 plus the cost of shipping, usually ranging between $60 and $150.
On You Tube:
The making of pralines at River Street Sweets
Did we miss any of your favorite snacks or treats?
This post is part of a LinkUp with Noel Morata’s Travel Photo Discovery.