Characterized by rich, creamy, delicious bites of Atlantic Blue Crab meat, She-Crab Soup is a popular offering in South Carolina. Where did it come from? Who created it? How do you know that it is good? Stick with us. This month’s blog focuses on this delightful dish just in time for the weather to get cold!
She-Crab Soup is a decades-old Southern signature dish. Extremely popular in colder months, this soup brings warm and rich flavors to dinner tables all across the south. It seems as though every restaurant has its own spin on this soup, but traditionally it includes heavy cream, blue crab meat, crab roe (eggs), and dry sherry. Even though most versions contain the same ingredients, some are rich and creamy, while others are light and buttery.
She-Crab Soup has roots in Scottish traditions brought to Charleston in the 1700s. Partan-Bree is a crab and rice soup. Over time, the recipe was altered to incorporate the blue crabs because of their abundance in our area. But while this Scottish soup served as a starting point, it has evolved into so much more!
We have William Deas to thank for the recipe we have been using since the early 1900s. As the story goes, R. Goodwyn Rhett (Mayor of Charleston at the time) was hosting and entertaining President Taft at his home when they asked their butler, William Deas, to create a fancy version of the traditional crab soup. Deas added the orange-colored crab eggs from the mature female crabs to add color and improve the flavor. Apparently, it was a hit because it has become massively important to locals and tourists today. However, the current recipe is a little different. Female blue crabs are now protected by law in South Carolina, so the crab roe is often left out.
So how do you know that the version you are eating is good? Here are a couple of things to take into account. Up first is texture. Regardless of the base being creamy white, peach, or some shade of orange, the soup’s consistency should be thick yet smooth when it first enters your mouth but silky and velvety as you swallow. It should never be “gloppy,” and your spoon should NEVER stand up in your soup.
The temperature is also critical. Temperature is key to any soup, but for She-Crab Soup, it should be served steaming hot but not burnt. Anything less than hot is unacceptable.
But what about flavor? Of course, you need to enjoy the taste, but subtlety matters. The flavor of crab should be evident but not overpowered by too much salt or other seasonings….. especially Old Bay. The crab should be sweet and succulent. She-Crab Soup should never taste fishy. After the basic flavors, it gets a bit complicated. If sherry is added, you should taste a slight caramel sweetness in the soup. If you are getting a version that uses crab roe, there will be a slightly tart and tangy flavor. Some have used creme fraiche, foams, chile oils, or other complementary garnishes and toppings to add to the delicious base. Just be mindful that those additives overpower the dish but enhance it.
While it can be a meal all on its own, She-Crab Soup goes excellent with many of the other items on the Pawley’s Raw Bar menu. Looking to stay light? We recommend the Bacon Wrapped Scallops. Or pair it with our House or Caesar Salad. Looking for a larger meal? She-Crab Soup works as an excellent starter to warm yourself up for any of our platter combinations. However you decide to order, Pawley’s Raw Bar is ready to serve you a bowl (or cup) today!
Want to see what other menu options we have to pair with your She-Crab Soup? Check out our menu online here: www.pawleysrawbar.com