When someone opens a Charleston area restaurant serving burrata, Caesar salad and a meatball appetizer, it’s fair to ask what the owner hoped to contribute to the culinary scene. But if the menu includes sea oyster pancake, squirrel fish, pumpkin beef and hot pot, the question answers itself.
Yumi Dong, whose father recently opened Old Li’s on Savannah Highway, said Lao Li wanted to bring Min cuisine to Charleston because he couldn’t find any local examples of food from his native Fujian Province. Speaking through a translator, Dong said Li moved here a decade ago but didn’t decide to open his restaurant until his son-in-law last year relocated to Charleston.
According to Dong, Li’s son-in-law is an experienced chef.
Min, or Fujian, cuisine is distinguished by an emphasis on seafood and predilection for sweet and sour flavors.
Its practitioners also prize decorative techniques. Squirrel fish, for instance, is more commonly associated with a region north of Fujian, but it’s a good example of carving up ingredients to make a dish more dramatic. “Squirrel” refers to the process of deboning, scoring and deep-frying a fish so it looks like a small mammal in flight.
Old Li’s, 1662 Savannah Highway, Unit 1, is open from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. For more information, call 843-640-3994 or go to oldlisrestaurant.com.