People who pause to think about the name of Xiao Bao Biscuit, which last month continued its march to national prominence with a New York Times write-up, often ask what kind of biscuits the Spring Street restaurant serves.
Typically, the answer is none. But the response changes Fridays, when bang bang biscuits hit the menu.
The chicken biscuits are a riff on shaobing, a Northern Chinese layered flatbread that's often covered with sesame seeds. The Xiao Bao crew added yeast as "a nod to our name and the South and growing up eating biscuits," owner Josh Walker e-mails. (Yes, it's technically fusion.)
In China, shaobing is stuffed with a variety of fillings, including eggs, meat, red beans, spring onions and Chinese doughnuts, for bread-on-bread-on-bread action. Xiao Bao takes its cues from Taiwan, where cilantro peanuts are sometimes added to the mix.
"We do it currently with the Sichuan 'strange flavor' sauce that has a roasted sesame base and is also known as bang bang," Walker writes. "So Fridays are our bang bang biscuit day."
Charleston food and drink on TV
No reservations are necessary to watch Frank McMahon prepare Mother's Day brunch dishes on the "Today" show.
McMahon (Hank's Seafood, Brasserie Gigi) earlier this month traveled to New York City to make his dishes in the NBC studio. The segment first aired the Friday before the holiday, and is now viewable through Gig's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BrasserieGigi.
Also in the recently filmed category: The Mira Winery partners, along with local sommeliers Patrick Emerson and Garth Herr, sat down with "CBS This Morning" for a piece about the winery's ocean-aging experiment. Mira this month is retrieving its second batch of Cabernet Sauvignon bottles aged in an underwater steel cage. Look for the segment at cbsnews.com.
From plot to table
For area food providers who don't have the space or time to farm a full-fledged kitchen garden, herb plots are emerging as an attractive way to localize their ingredient lists.
The Charleston RiverDogs last year installed a self-serve "taco herb" station: The trough of cilantro, parsley and other edible greens was so popular in its first season that the team this year added two more gardens. And Mellow Mushroom Avondale has just planted a collection of pizza-and-cocktail herbs in the Magnolia Community Park & Garden, the community's first shared growing space.
According to a release from the restaurant, the aim is to "source almost all of their herbs" for the kitchen and bar, including experimental herbs that don't yet appear on the menu.
Mellow Mushroom is planting a few vegetables alongside its herbs. Its first projected harvest includes cherry tomatoes, jalapenos, sweet basil, cilantro, oregano, lavender and Italian parsley.
"The Mellow employees are excited to play in the dirt," the release claims.
Benne oil boards the Slow Food ark
Benne oil, the South's second-favorite choice for frying until the late 19th century, has been granted a place aboard Slow Food's Ark of Taste.
The international program seeks to protect and draw attention to foods that are tasty, regionally important and endangered.
Other South Carolina products already admitted to the virtual Ark include Bradford watermelon and Carolina Gold rice.
The nomination form, submitted by the state's Slow Food regional governor, claims benne "was grown in all great Carolina kitchen gardens, in particular in the forbidden subsistence gardens of African slaves." Benne oil was commercially produced beginning in the early 1800s. Its flavor impressed Thomas Jefferson, but its success was stemmed by the introduction of refined cottonseed oil, a flavorless and economical repurposing of cotton industry waste.
"Benne oil has a yellow color, usually of a deeper hue than expressed almond oil. (It) is nearly inodorous, and has a bland and agreeable taste," according to the form, which credits the oil with bringing together the Lowcountry's other distinct flavors.
There are currently 1,684 products in the Ark of Taste. To learn more, visit slowfoodfoundation.com.