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A Feast with Friends



A Feast with Friends
PHOTOGRAPHER: 
February 2019

Corrie and Shuai Wang, of Short Grain and the highly anticipated restaurant Jackrabbit Filly, host a nostalgic meal at home

Shuai (above, center) and Corrie (to his left) share hot pot with friends.

There’s no off switch for Corrie and Shuai Wang. Back in 2015, the husband-and-wife team launched Short Grain, their “untraditional Japanese” food truck, to great fanfare, garnering Shuai a James Beard Rising Star Chef nomination and his inventive dishes a cult following in Charleston. In the years since, the couple hasn’t slowed down; they (happily) ditched the trailer, then reshaped their operation into pop-ups, with a Tuesday residency at Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company. And this summer, they are set to open their first brick-and-mortar restaurant, Jackrabbit Filly—a powerhouse pairing in Park Circle, with the owners of natural wine bar Stems & Skins managing the beverage program and operations.

The Wangs are in demand more than ever—with events and restaurant plans packing their schedule—and though things will soon shift again, for now, the Short Grain team remains a humble one: Shuai handles all back-of-house food prep on his own, while Corrie splits time between front-of-house logistics and her career as a novelist of young adult literature. “I haven’t slept in two weeks,” Shuai says, fresh off a recent busy stretch. “I’m on deadline for my second book, and our puppy just got spayed,” adds Corrie. “It’s one of those months when things just aren’t stopping!”

With the momentum, Shuai has fully inhabited his unique culinary perspective. “When we started the food truck, we called it ‘untraditional Japanese’ because we wanted to make a particular Japanese rice bowl,” says Corrie. “But at this point, Shuai’s not trying to make any certain food—just his food.” Though he honed his skills as chef de cuisine at New York izakaya Chez Sardine, Shuai’s approach is anchored most by his Chinese upbringing, particularly a cannon of beloved recipes from childhood, prepared by his mother and grandmother. “For me, there are a lot of similarities with Southern cooking and Chinese cooking,” says Shuai. “Both are based on heritage and comfort food. It’s easy to combine the two.”

Off the clock, Shuai’s all-time favorite dish is hot pot: savory broth (cooked in a big metal pot, via tabletop burners) in which various trimmings are poached. “Kind of like Asian fondue,” Shuai says. Countless versions of hot pot have been shared over centuries across Asia, differing in style from region to region, household to household. In Beijing, Shuai ate hot pot from copper pots, with hot coals warming a tandem of spicy, Sichuan style broth and a palate-cleansing clear broth.

(Left to right) Hot Pot; a duo of broths in a quintessential hot pot; a jar of Lao Gan Ma chili crisp, spooned atop Shuai’s sesame dipping sauce

“Shuai’s parents always make him hot pot whenever we come home because they know how much he loves it,” says Corrie. She appreciates the communal aspect most, how everyone gathers around to cook the feast together. “You get to the point you’re completely stuffed, then someone passes you a plate and says, ‘Look, there’s still some left—eat more!’”

Shuai’s version of the heartwarming meal highlights locally sourced ingredients. To make your own hot pot, start with the right pot; at any Asian grocery store (like Charleston’s H&L Asian Market), you can purchase a basic divided metal hot pot, which keeps your broths separate. Using two pots you already have at home does the job just fine, too.

And what goes in those piping hot broths? Typically, first raw meat slices, then veggies, then noodles, though there are no hard and fast rules. Retrieve your poached morsels, riff, and repeat. Shuai recommends boneless short ribs, which can be thinly sliced by your butcher. Or head to H&L’s freezer aisle, and give the tofu puffs, fish balls, or crab sticks a whirl. Shuai adds local shrimp to his spread and suggests using seasonal produce from the farmers market, like leafy greens. The possibilities are endless.

For a sweet treat, Crunchy Matcha Persimmon Cake is an easy pleaser. “I have a very small cooking repertoire,” says Corrie. “I first had this cake while visiting a friend’s house in Brooklyn.” When she recreated the dessert for Shuai, “he became equally obsessed with it.”

At the moment, the couple shares one day off a week. Dinner on their porch usually ends with Corrie sneaking in additional writing time, or Shuai brainstorming menu ideas.

“We would be bored if we had more free time on our hands,” Corrie says. Yes, sharing both personal and professional lives can be challenging at times. “But we are still what matter the most in this. What do we come out with, if we’re not still a couple? Luckily, we still have a lot of fun together.”

Live: In Park Circle
Own: Short Grain and forthcoming Jackrabbit Filly
Shuai, on recipe writing: “I’ve only recently started to write down recipes for my future cooks to replicate. Usually I cook from memory. I cook from smell. I cook from taste.”

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(Left) A hot pot spread; (Right) matcha cake all dressed up, fresh whipped cream optional

Chef Shuai Wang’s Hot Pot Pointers

Hot pot is a staple of many Asian cultures; variations can be found almost everywhere. I grew up eating from pots made out of copper, heated by coal. Most places now use tabletop burners, but the idea behind hot pot has been the same for decades. You eat it in the winter to keep warm and in the summer to sweat and cool off. It’s my favorite dish in the whole entire world.

THINGS TO DIP

There are endless items you can add to a hot pot. These are a few things I grew up with:

■ Boneless short ribs, thinly sliced. Your local butcher should be able to do this for you. If not, you can get pre-sliced “fatty beef” at Chinese groceries.
■ Jumbo or large local shrimp, peeled and deveined
■ Seasonal vegetables: during the colder months, Charleston is full of local bok choy, tatsoi, Napa cabbage, and kale. I would get a variety of leafy greens from the farmers market and some mushrooms as well.
■ Rice noodles tend to be everyone’s go to. Most people use the very thin ones.
■ Don’t let my little list stop you from adventuring out into the wild. If you feel up for it, get some dumplings from the freezer aisle, fish balls, shrimp balls, tofu puffs, and/or crab sticks. You can’t go wrong.

EQUIPMENT

What you’ll need to enjoy a delicious hot pot:

■ One Chinese “divided” pot. If you can’t find this, two regular one-gallon pots will work just fine.
■ One (or two if you’re using two separate pots) portable tabletop burner(s)
■ Mini “spider” strainers to scoop out your hot pot items
■ Chopsticks. This is not a fork-and-knife event, my friends. There’s no better time to learn than now.

HOW TO EAT HOT POT 101 

Lay the raw ingredients on separate plates and arrange them around your dining table. Place the tabletop burner(s) in the middle. Each person should have one small bowl of the dipping sauce and a small plate to hold their cooked hot pot ingredients.

Bring the covered pot(s) of broths to a boil on the stove. Carefully transfer the pot(s) of broth from the stove to the tabletop burner(s), turn the burner(s) on high, and let it/them rip. Use your chopsticks to pick up whatever you want to cook in the hot pot, drop it in either the clear or spicy broth, and cook it thoroughly. If you’re skilled enough, pick it out with your chopsticks; if not, that’s what the “spider” strainer is for. You can either put the food right into your dipping sauce or onto your plate and dip afterwards. How much sauce to use is totally up to you. Traditionally, you would start a hot pot with all your meat and seafood items, then when you’re getting a little full, you would move to vegetables and lastly to noodles. But feel free to enjoy it however you choose.