The Proof is in the Pirlau

Hmm, I’ll take the Flash in the Pan Pirlau… Or is it Per-low? Pra-loo? Perla?

Anyway you pronounce it, it’s amazing. Pirlau is a true lowcountry tradition, a dish rising in the ranks among Charleston’s Most Popular Seafood superlatives.

Pirlau paints a picture of the lowcountry’s history. The roots of the rice dish are traced back to 1800’s, when rice was one of Charleston’s biggest cash crops. The unique salt and fresh water tidal swamps and creeks along the banks of many large plantations became the perfect place to grow and harvest rice. The work was done by the area’s African slave workforce, who created a genius system to farm the rice. The rice crop was so plentiful- and delicious- that the lowcountry moved from exporting it by the thousands of pounds, to millions of pounds.

Rice of course became a staple in many Charleston dishes. The slave force who farmed the rice also cooked with the rice, creating Pirlau as a twist on a traditional African rice stew. When preparing it in Charleston, a few tweaks were made to include local ingredients, mainly the addition of local fish.

Chef Stephen Ollard has his Pirlau preparation down to a science. With his Flash in the Pan Pirlau, you can expect a very traditional recipe, but with an Amen twist. The rice is flavorful and fluffy. Atop a perfect bed of rice are fresh local scallops, shrimp, mussels and clams. It’s a lighter, more adventurous alternative to Shrimp and Grits. And Pirlau is something you really can’t get just anywhere.

Every culture has a rice dish: the Spanish serve Paella, Italians cook Risotto, many Middle Eastern cultures prefer Pilaf. And we Southerners love us some Pirlau.

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