“Charleston doesn’t have this food or that food” is a common complaint from residents who want the city to be as cosmopolitan as they are. But in many cases, the wished-for food has a local presence — it just isn’t served in restaurants.
To give readers an opportunity to sample global foods that aren’t easy to find in the Lowcountry, we’ve invited 13 talented home cooks from various cooking traditions to join our new "Kitchen Cabinet." Each member will contribute four recipes over the coming year, providing some sense of the seasonal aspects of the showcased cuisines. Members also have been asked to use local ingredients whenever possible, so you can create a South American, African, Asian or European meal from what you buy at your favorite farmers market.
For more on the Charleston area cooks who will be broadening culinary horizons in the year ahead, and their suggestions for how to approach their recipes, read on:
Barbara Rembiesa-Carter (Polish)
Barbara Rembiesa-Carter is the president of the Polish American Society of Charleston. She was born in Krakow, and moved to Charleston in 1985. She’s never cooked professionally, but enjoys sprucing up her plates so they look pretty on the table.
Favorite childhood food: Pierogi and potato pancakes
Current favorite food to make: Appetizers
Keep in mind when cooking a Rembiesa-Carter recipe: Rembiesa doesn’t like following recipes, so she won’t be offended if you make adjustments to her dishes.
Abeba “Abby” Teklehaimanot and Mulugeta “Muller” Gebregziabher (Ethiopian)
Ethiopian natives Abeda Teklehaimanot and Mulugeta Gebregziabher moved to Charleston in 2006. Gebregziabher admits Teklehaimanot is usually in charge of their kitchen, but he helps however he can: The couple has cooked for various community events.
Favorite childhood food: Injera (fermented sourdough flatbread) with meat stew and shiro (dried chickpea powder) stew. During the holidays, doro wot (spiced chicken stew) was a “must-have.”
Current favorite food to make: Shiro, doro wot and gomen, a fragrant slow-cooked greens dish.
Keep in mind when cooking a Teklehaimanot/Gebregziabher recipe: Teklehaimanot and Gebregziabher adhere to Ethiopian culinary traditions, so their food strikes many Americans as spicy.
Karol and Bradley Goldsworthy (Colombian)
Karol Goldsworthy was born in Bogota, Colombia; her husband grew up in Queens, New York, where he was known as “Chuletica” because of his overwhelming affection for chuleta valluna, the breaded pork cutlets popular on Colombia’s west coast. The couple moved to Charleston in 2014, and launched the Pacha Mama food truck. They now run Restaurant Tropical by Pacha Mama in Goose Creek.
Favorite childhood food: Karol Goldsworthy grew up in Bogota, far from the hub of chuleta valluna. To ward off the chill that clings to the high-altitude capital, she liked the traditional snack of arepas con queso (fried cornmeal cakes with melted cheese) and hot chocolate.
Current favorite food to make: Christmas food, which includes arepas; bunuelos (fried balls of cheese batter); natilla (sweetened and set egg custard); arroz con leche (rice pudding); and pan de bono (cheese bread.)
Keep in mind when cooking a Goldsworthy recipe: “... It is very important to have classical salsa music playing in the background. Preferably Grupo Niche.”
Steve Auerbach (Jewish deli)
Steve Auerbach was born in Brooklyn, New York, to parents who owned a string of food-related businesses, from a candy store to the Stage Deli. After 30 years of visiting Charleston, Auerbach moved here in 2013. Although he’s never cooked professionally, he’s worked in restaurants since he was 12 years old.
Favorite childhood food: His mother’s baked goods, including date chews and mandel bread (a hard cookie.)
Current favorite food to make: During the holidays, kasha varnishkes, a dish of buckwheat groats and bow-tie noodles.
Keep in mind when cooking an Auerbach recipe: Auerbach encourages experimentation, especially when it comes to ingredients and how much of them to use.
Shoba Kousik (Indian)
Born in Kerala, Shoba Kousik studied hotel restaurant management and food production at the Institute of Hotel Management , Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition in Mumbai, then taught at the school’s Hyderabad campus. She moved to Charleston in 2006.
Favorite childhood food: Mangoes.
Current favorite food to make: Rice.
Keep in mind when cooking a Kousik recipe: Indian food has a stateside reputation for being heavily spiced, but Kousik stresses the goal is to balance spices, rather than overdo them. “One spice can easily overpower other spices if not used in moderation,” she warns.
Fauzia Garner (Afghan)
Fauzia Garner grew up in Kabul, where she learned how to cook from her mother. She moved to Charleston in 2006 and worked a series of kitchen jobs, in addition to running a catering company. When she was responsible for the hot bar at Whole Foods Market, customers chafed at having to wait a month for Afghan specialties to reappear in the international section of the steam table. Garner now operates Fauzia’s Kitchen, a food truck.
Favorite childhood food: Chicken kebabs.
Current favorite food to make: There are countless ways to prepare lamb in Afghan cuisine, and Garner is fond of all of them.
Keep in mind when cooking a Garner recipe: “Never overcook.”
Hoda Mabrouk (Egyptian)
A native of Brooklyn, New York, Mabrouk is an enthusiastic amateur home cook who has frequently shared her cuisine at community events.
Favorite childhood food: Stuffed grape leaves.
Current favorite food to make: Falafel.
Keep in mind when cooking a Mabrouk recipe: Mabrouk cautions home cooks against rushing through her recipes. “It’s a process of layering flavors,” she says.
Lisa K. Barclay (Austrian)
Barclay was born in Vienna, and has lived in Charleston for nearly 25 years. At 85, she describes herself as “too old and incapacitated” to cook, but she’s shared her family’s recipes with the people who cook for her.
Favorite childhood food: Wiener schnitzel.
Current favorite food to make: In the years since she’s stopped cooking, Barclay has enjoyed thinking back on many of the dishes she used to prepare for her husband and children: She declined to choose a favorite.
Keep in mind when cooking a Barclay recipe: Pleasure is paramount for Barclay: “Love what (you) are doing and enjoy eating the food,” she recommends.
Jesse Stament (Filipino)
Jessie Stament, originally from Angeles City in The Philippines, for two years ran Refueler’s Mobile Café with his wife, Sarah. The Staments took their truck off the road in 2014 to spend more time with their sons, but Stament has continued to prepare the dishes he learned from his mother.
Favorite childhood food: Chicken or pork adobo with boiled egg and steamed rice.
Current favorite food to make: Spicy pork sisig and garlic fried rice.
Keep in mind when cooking a Stament recipe: The Tagalog word for family is “palmiya,” which Stament says is central to any Filipino meal. “Filipino cooking is informal and communal,” he says. “So invite your family and friends over when preparing any of these dishes. Pop open a bottle of wine, a few cold beers, turn on some music, and enjoy each other's company as the meal is prepared.”
The Rev. Joseph Tedesco OCSO (Monastic/Vegetarian)
Tedesco of Mepkin Abbey mastered the art of cooking for very large crowds when preparing meals for a Boston soup kitchen in the 1960s and Vietnamese refugees on an army base in the 1970s. Nowadays, he feeds about 35 people at Mepkin Abbey each day.
Favorite childhood food: Anything Italian.
Current favorite food to make: Any kind of soup.
Keep in mind when cooking a Tedesco recipe: Monastic cooking emphasizes simplicity and healthfulness, but it doesn’t have to be made in meager portions. Because Tedesco developed his recipes to serve dozens, they can be easily multiplied.
Teca Thompson & Fatima Falangola (Brazilian)
Brazilian natives Thompson and Falangola seven years ago moved to Charleston after two decades in New York, and last year launched the Brazilianuts food truck. Their specialty is tapioca, the popular Brazilian chewy crepe-like shell that’s filled with everything from caramelized bananas to scrambled eggs.
Favorite childhood food: Thompson was a fan of her mother’s fruit salad with passionfruit juice, while Falangola’s favorite was her father’s tomato sauce.
Current favorite food to make: Falangola still enjoys tomato sauce on pasta, which is easy enough for her to handle as an untrained cook. Thompson, by contrast, has a culinary degree and professional kitchen experience: She likes to make sautéed shrimp with coconut milk.
Keep in mind when cooking a Thompson/Falangola recipe: There are plenty of Brazilian dishes that don’t overlap with the American canon, so home cooks may not have an instinctive sense of the taste or texture they’re trying to achieve. Thompson and Falangola advise pressing ahead anyhow: “They should try at least once.”
Sean Park (Korean)
Park owns Kanpai in Mount Pleasant, where his sushi continues to wow eaters who first knew him as O-Ku’s executive chef. But Park’s heritage is Korean: He was born in Seoul, and moved to Charleston in 2010.
Favorite childhood food: Kalbi, the marinated beef short rib which many American-born eaters will recognize from Korean restaurants with tabletop grills.
Current favorite food to make: Like Tedesco, Park most enjoys "any kind of soup."
Keep in mind when cooking a Park recipe: Park says he tries to season his food with a "hint of humor and song," but he's most concerned about the salt in home cooks' spice cabinets. "No cheap sea salt," he pleads, recommending kosher or high-quality sea salt instead of the iodized table salt for which many cooks instinctively reach.
Rose Mbuyu Mwamba (Congolese)
Rose Mwamba, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, met her husband, Bakemayi Mufuta, at a refugee camp in Zambia. With the help of Lutheran Services Carolina, the couple moved to Charleston in January with their two children.
Favorite childhood food: As a child, Rose enjoyed fish and nshima, a boiled porridge of white cornmeal and water.
Current favorite food to make: Okra and fish.
Keep in mind when cooking a Mufuta recipe: Cooks may need to visit one of the African markets in the area to source the dried fish, pounded groundnuts and cassava required for her recipes.