Turmeric, a staple spice in Asian cuisine, adds color and flavor to local dishes
What: Noticed turmeric showing up on Holy City menus as of late? Although it’s commonly grown in the countries of Southeast Asia and the Hawaiian Islands, the root can also be found here, thanks to John Warren of Spade & Clover Gardens. “Similar to Asian climates, we deal with heat, humidity, rain, and the occasional burst of cold weather,” explains Warren. As turmeric succeeds in the soil, it’s also gaining ground in the Lowcountry food scene. “I’m glad I have a supportive group of chefs who are open to experimenting," he says.
Where to taste:
- Xiao Bao Biscuit (224 Rutledge Ave., xiaobaobiscuit.com)
“We’re an Asian restaurant that geeks out on interesting things, so naturally, we were excited when John started growing turmeric,” says head chef Josh Walker. He rubs it onto local fish in Cha Ca—a twist on the classic Vietnamese dish served with lemongrass and dill-infused chili broth—and also sautés thin slices with garlic to top a plate of greens.
- The Lot (1977 Maybank Hwy., www.thelotcharleston.com)
“I’m color blind, so I love a plate that pops,” says chef Andy McLeod. He uses the root in curries, sauces, and jams. “When you grate a little bit into curry, the root sort of melts in and dissolves, but the vibrant color intensifies,” McLeod notes.
- Butcher & Bee (1085 Morrison Dr., www.butcherandbee.com)
Butcher & Bee chef Chelsey Conrad grates it onto rice and uses it in pickled onions. Sister restaurant The Daily serves Turmeric Tang, a juice combining the root with coconut water, pineapple, lime, and cayenne pepper.
- Kenchi Ferments (www.kenchiferments.com)
Turmeric Tomatoes, a fermented product made with sliced turmeric, green tomatoes, garlic, and lemongrass, is a bestseller for the local food purveyor. “We buy roots from John in the fall and winter,” owner Ken Jaimes says. You can find his jars in area stores and Whole Foods Markets.