When you think of enduring symbols of the Lowcountry, there are a few that have clearly benefited from some extensive PR. Dolphins? Sure, they’re pretty and it’s always magical to see their fins knife up above the water, but they’re really creatures of the open sea with limited forays into the inland waterways that define much of our area. A golf ball? True, the Lowcountry is something of a mecca for hackers and pros alike, but ask anyone local about the last time they played golf and odds are good you’ll hear more sputtered excuses than solid answers.
But the crab, now there’s a symbol of the Lowcountry we can all get behind. Whether skittering among the spartina stalks in a marshy field of pluff mud, emblazoned in vivid blues on a piece of locally produced art, or steaming in succulent flavors on a plate, the crab is truly the symbol that unites us. This month, we introduce three locals who have devoted themselves to these amazing crustaceans.
Let’s get crackin’…
LOCAL SINCE 2013
HANK YADEN MOVED HERE FROM IRMO. HE NOW LIVES IN PIGEON POINT IN BEAUFORT. HOBBIES INCLUDE FISHING, SHARK TOOTH HUNTING, MARTIAL ARTS, WINE DINNERS AND ENTERTAINING.
Inside scoop on she crab soup
Over the course of his lengthy culinary career, there have been several pivotal moments for Hank Yaden. There was his first job in a kitchen, making sushi and prepping dishes at the age of 13. There was his hiring at Charleston’s The Fish Market, his first job in the South. He’d moved here to chase a Southern belle named Wanda Sue, and had married her. There was the shock of losing his restaurant, The Queen Street Seafood Inn, to Hurricane Hugo.
But perhaps no moment was as pivotal as the day in 1985 he was handed a recipe. At that point he’d taken a job as a sous chef in a restaurant in Mount Pleasant, and thus did not have the seniority to make changes to what was, by all accounts, an appalling She Crab Soup recipe. Made of evaporated milk from a can, machine-picked claw meat and lacking the necessary crab roe, this was not so much a soup as it was a liquid tragedy. “Two ladies called me out into the dining room and told me it was the worst She Crab Soup they’d ever had. It wasn’t even close to She Crab Soup.”
They then handed him a family recipe that changed his life, even if he didn’t know it at the time. “It sat on my dresser for a month.”
The recipe, as Google search years later would prove, was the original recipe as set forth by the creator of She Crab Soup, William Deas. Boasting ingredients from heavy cream and sherry to crab roe, the recipe was so authentic it didn’t even include Old Bay, since the spice hadn’t been invented yet. “I didn’t even know what I had all those years.”
But once he discovered the historic roots of his She Crab Soup recipe, he took it on the road. “We had an opportunity to sell my soup at the local farmer’s market,” he said. “The first Saturday, I made eight gallons and we sold out in an hour and a half. We were very happy with that, so the second week I made 14 gallons of soup. By the time the market ended we sold out… Every time we went back, we sold more and sold more.”
And thus, Hank’s Lowcountry She Crab Soup was born. A staple of the local festival scene, it quickly gained a following at farmers markets from Beaufort to Bluffton to Hilton Head. Within a few months, both Hank and Wanda Sue were able to quit their jobs and devote themselves full time to their burgeoning soup empire.
That empire will gain its next stronghold this summer with the opening of a full-fledged restaurant in Beaufort. “(The restaurant will be) all locally sourced ingredients, and I’m going to be using 3-4 local farmers in the area,” he said in late May. “We just finished the flooring and drains so they’re picking up momentum.”
In the meantime, you can still enjoy Hank’s She Crab Soup at the farmers markets on Hilton Head, in Bluffton and in Port Royal.