The Case for South Carolina's Hash and Rice
In our last installment, I took a look at the recent resurgence of hash and rice, South Carolina’s signature barbecue side. I even made the bold prediction that instead of “fading fast,” as some commentators have claimed, hash may soon have a star turn on the national barbecue stage.
If anything heralds the ascendance of hash, it’s the arrival of the savory stew in the heart of brisket and chili country. That’s right. In just the past year, a few pioneering Texas barbecue restaurants have started serving South Carolina-style hash and rice.
Its appearance is linked to Texans’ recent adoption of whole hog barbecue. First, a number of noted brisket cooks, inspired by the Carolina tradition, started cooking the occasional pig for special events. A few have since added whole hog as a regular feature at their restaurants.
One of these is Evan LeRoy, who now serves whole hog (actually, whole hogs split in half) five days a week at LeRoy & Lewis Barbecue in Austin.
“Everything single thing we do is informed by sourcing,” LeRoy says, noting that they use heritage breed pigs from a local farm. “It’s expensive. We have to use every single piece of it and get creative any way we can to use every bit of weight.”
After cooking the pigs, they incorporate the bones into pork stock and use the rest in hash. “It’s just a bunch of stuff that can’t be used anywhere else,” LeRoy says. “We have leftover rice that gets pureed in. It has mustard and hot sauce to give it tang and a little bit of zip.”
Though the recipe is his own, LeRoy turned for inspiration to hash evangelist Elliott Moss’s Buxton Hall cookbook. “When I got Elliott’s book,” he says, “I was surprised [his hash] was really just simple ingredients. It’s really simple foods, like chili in Texas, which creates super, super deep flavor.”
As for Texans’ reaction to the novel side dish, LeRoy says, “Nobody really knows what it is [at first.] Everyone thinks it’s potatoes. But nobody ever brings it back.” Hash and rice now competes neck and neck with kale caesar slaw as their top-selling side dish.
Over in Houston, Russell and Misty Roegels recently started cooking whole hog once a month at Roegels Barbecue, and when they do Misty Roegels makes hash and rice to go alongside.
“Mine’s a tomato base,” she says. She starts with a blend of tomato sauce and the restaurant’s tangy barbecue sauce and adds in the meat, which is leftover pulled pork and some of the hog her husband is cooking that day, along with onions, brown sugar, and seasonings. Then, the pot goes right onto the barbecue pit.
“We leave it on there probably an hour and a half,” Roegels says, “so all the spices marry. And right before it’s done I throw in a stick of butter.”
Like Evan LeRoy, Roegels says hash lets them use ingredients they already have on hand. “I looked around the restaurant,” Roegels says, “and asked, what do I have already? The only thing I had to bring in was the tomato sauce. It’s my Texas hash.”
Their customers have been very receptive. “Some people know what it is,” Roegels says. “We have a lot of East Coast transplants here. But some people are like what is that?”
Once they try it, though, most of them come around. “People like it,” Roegels says. “So I’ll keep cooking it.”
Texans can also find hash occasionally at Feges BBQ, another Houston joint that features whole hog barbecue. Co-owner and pitmaster Patrick Feges says they are still playing with their formula, but they serve it occasionally as a special in the restaurant. “We don't have a dialed in recipe,” Feges says, “just like every other special I do, I just wing it.” But, he adds, “It surprisingly sold better than I thought it would.”
I, for one, am bullish on hash’s future, both inside of South Carolina and even down in Texas. It may puzzle diners when they first encounter it on a menu—especially if they come across a version that includes liver along with the pork and spices. But once they give it a try, that thick, savory gravy combined with tender, filling rice is bound to win them over.
Author’s Note: At the time of this posting, the governor of Texas has ordered all Lone Star State restaurants to close their dining rooms to the public. LeRoy & Lewis, Roegels Barbecue, and Feges BBQ have all shifted to drive-up or take-out formats only. Here’s hoping they can get back to regular operations—and sling some more hash and rice—as soon as possible.