She-crab soup, famous on the South Carolina and Georgia coasts, can trace its roots back to Charleston from the early 1900s. Scottish settlers apparently started a variation of the soup from as early as the 1700s when they brought with them a recipe of blue crab and rice. According to legend, President Taft was visiting Mayor Rhett when she-crab soup was created. They were dining at the John Rutledge House when Mayor Rhett asked his butler to create a fancier version of the Scottish recipe of partan-bree (or crab and rice). The butler simply added crab roe (crab eggs), making the soup creamier and therefore creating she-crab soup.
The she crab can be differentiated from the male crab by her wider abdomen plate. Blue crab – found along the Atlantic Coast – is preferred for making she-crab soup, but regular crabs can be used as well.
Many Charleston area restaurants feature she-crab soup on their menus. AW Shucks, The Charleston Crab House, Hyman’s, Noisy Oyster and Fleet Landing are just a few of the restaurants that offer a delicious bowl of she-crab soup. Pictured here is a bowl of she-crab soup from Noisy Oyster. After our taste of this soup, we certainly feel comfortable recommending the she-crab soup at Noisy Oyster anytime. It has perfect consistency and the balance of crab meat is just right so it doesn’t overpower the soup.
Recipes abound, but we found a fantastic one on the Southern Living website. She-crab soup is often garnished with a dollop of sherry. Don’t use too much, though, or it overwhelms the soup’s flavor. And what’s the best wine to pair with she-crab soup? We read on winedin.com that pinot gris is the best choice.
We long for the day when she-crab soup is offered in more cities in the United States, but for now, we will have to settle for ordering the soup in only the cities around Charleston, SC. Also, to think that she-crab soup originated inside the John Rutledge House, which is now a renowned bed and breakfast, is also something for us to brag about. This soup is more than just a pre-dinner treat. It’s a piece of Holy City history and a staple dish here in Charleston. It’s a “must try” for anyone not from the area and we feel certain if you try it, you’ll love it.