EAT – Meimei’s Dim Sum
By Griffin Nelson | Photography by John Antaki
I’ve done lots traveling and sampled many different kinds of international food, but Meimei’s Dim Sum was a first for me and I was so excited to try something new to me and to the area! Meihong Liu – who goes by Mei – explained dim sum as a Chinese version of tapas – small plates for sharing at the table so that you can sample lots of little dishes. As you sit at your table, carts come by with a variety of dishes – pot stickers, soup, pastries, steamer baskets and more.
Traditionally dim sum comes from Southeastern China. Originating in the city of Guangzhou, it was quickly picked up and popularized in nearby Hong Kong. Though Mei and her family come from a little further north, they’ve cooked dim sum for years. As I watch her mother and uncle create each dish entirely by hand – rolling out wrappers for dumplings and filling each one with homemade mixture – I can tell that each bite is made with love.
The menu formulated by Mei and her family features dishes like bao – steamed or pan-fried buns filled with meat – pot stickers, and crystal dumplings that look like little purple jewels that happen to be vegan as well. Normally the carts come to your table and you can pick out what you’d like to eat. If it’s something that requires extra cooking – for example, a prepped dumpling that still needs to be fried or steamed – they finish it right there next to your table, adding some theater to the dining experience while ensuring hot, fresh food. Of course, if you’d rather eat at home, Meimei’s also does takeout.
“In this age in time people are more open to trying new things,” says Mei. I agree and think dim sum is the perfect place to start. The format of the menu allows for a sampling of many different dishes. Additionally, Mei has made sure to have both a classic and traditional menu. If you prefer the comfort of a dish like orange chicken or would rather try a recipe from mainland China, like garlic eggplant with minced pork, you can eat from either end of the spectrum. Each dish typically comes with its own sauce but Mei points out that there aren’t any hard and fast rules. Dim sum is not particularly spicy so many people like to dip it in a mixture of soy sauce and spicy pepper oil, allowing for a range of heat depending on your preference.
If you’re not sure what to order, the staff at Meimei’s is always happy to answer questions and want to make sure you get to taste amazing, authentic, handmade Chinese dim sum every time.
Find out more at www.meimeisdimsumhouse.com or call (706) 305-9554.
SIP – Buzzworthy Bubbles
Photo by John Antaki
The buzz about town is that Buzzworthy Bubbles is the best way to add some pizzaz to your party! The absolutely adorable vintage Cushman Truckster was originally built in the early 1980s and was converted by Andy Albright to serve up your favorite beverages right in your own backyard. The idea came to her when she was at a friend’s wedding where the groom and his husband had a similar setup instead of a traditional bar. It was such a fun addition to the reception she knew Augusta needed its own.
The tiny truck was completely restored by Albright and her husband. Originally made by the Cushman company, which was owned by the E-Z-Go company, the Gatsby-esque feel of the renovated truckster includes gorgeous wood and gold detailing with a classic Napoleonic bee motif. The classy mini-vehicle is not only the cutest way to imbibe, it’s also compact so that it can both stylistically and physically fit into any setting. “It felt like Augusta. It felt like home,” said Albright. “What we want it to provide is a centerpiece at a gathering where you can connect with people – whether that’s at a wedding or baby shower.”
That emphasis on connection and bringing people together is at the heart of Buzzworthy Bubbles. “We love hosting. We love gathering. We think community is critical,” said Albright. Though inspired at a wedding and certainly perfect for them, the truckster can be used for any kind of party, from a Mother’s Day brunch to a bridal shower to a birthday party. The five taps can accommodate all sorts of beverages, from red wine to your favorite local beer to Prosecco. The price to rent the truckster includes a staff member on-site plus toss ware that allows for each person to pour their own beverage and cleaning between pours, resulting in a safe and sanitary process. Andy Albright works with each customer to make sure they have beverages that match their preferences and work best for their event, taking away the stress of making sure that everyone has enough to drink. “This is about people. It needs to feel warm. It needs to feel comfortable,” said Albright. “Let me stress about how many kegs. Let me worry so that you can enjoy the company and the relationship.”
With great drinks, a fun, inclusive and participatory process, a gorgeous aesthetic, and the heart behind it all, Buzzworthy Bubbles is the perfect mobile bar service for any get-together.
To learn more about the truckster or to book a meeting for rental, get started at www.buzzworthybubbles.com.
ARTISAN – Lyeing Mohawk Masa
Photo by John Antaki
So often we spend all this time planning out a recipe and then grab a product off a shelf without thinking at all about the quality, who made it, or how it’s processed. Augusta’s first Boucherie event in 2019 was an eye-opener for much of the community to see where their local food comes from, who feeds and grows it, and the work that goes into high-quality staples in our diet. One of the lead organizers and founders of that event was Dave McClusky, indigenous chef, and owner of the Corn Mafia brand, known for his love of corn and staying true to the traditional ways of processing it.
Hundreds of years ago, before colonization changed the face of the continent, the native peoples were experts in processing and cooking with corn. It would first be nixtamalized – steeped in a lye solution. The advantage to nixtamalization is that it makes the nutrients in the corn easier for your body to access and process. Next the corn is rinsed, fire roasted, dried, ground and sifted to create a high quality masa that can be used in all sorts of recipes. McClusky has been attending Boucheries and giving talks throughout the south and east coast for years. He teaches the process, explains the benefits and uses his skills as a chef to cook with it whenever possible.
As his notoriety has grown, he has been encouraged to start his own company producing small batch hominy and masa. By the time Covid hit the continent in 2020 he’d accumulated several hundred pounds of a wide variety of indigenous corn and found himself stuck at home with all events canceled. It was during this time that he reached out to Ken Dubard of the Congaree Milling Company in Columbia, S.C., about about a limited partnership that would allow him to use their mill. There, the Lyeing Mohawk Masa and Longhouse Hominy Grits products were created. Since that time, McClusky has been nixtamalizing, drying and grinding several varieties of corn practically nonstop to keep up with orders. When he can find time he works on recipes to show people how to use the products. Though there are certainly some recipes that include meat, many of the recipes are or can be altered slightly to be vegetarian or vegan for a satisfying plant-based meal. Cooking with McClusky’s small batch Lyeing Mohawk Masa can both elevate a dish and take it back to its roots.
For more information on available hominy and masa products you can visit www.thecornmafia.com or reach out directly on Instagram at @cornmafia.
What do you do when you have some of that leftover Masa Harina that you bought to make tortillas but didn’t find that very fun? You make tamales!
In this case, we use left over pulled pork barbecue from our road trip to Lewis Barbecue in Charleston and some Lyeing Mohawk Masa from Corn Mafia’s small-batch hominy and micro-mill in North Augusta.
These ingredients are a great use of some leftovers, and beer. These are gringo Tamales, but tamales nonetheless!
• 2 cups Lyeing Mohawk Masa White.
• 8-10 corn husks, soaked in warm water to soften overnight.
• 2-2 ½ cups warm water or smoked bacon stock (2 slices raw, ½ cup onion, 3T barbecue sauce, simmer 20 minutes and strain).
• 1 cup or lard or bacon grease ( or coconut oil for the squeamish).
• 1 teaspoon (or more) of sea salt to taste.
• 1 teaspoon baking powder.
• About 2 cups chopped pork barbecue (Add that stuff from the bacon stock if you like, it’ll be perfect).
• Hot sauce and or barbecue sauce to season the dough.
Method: If preparing the bacon stock, place all of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer and strain. Reserve the bacon and onions for later.
Place the masa, 1 teaspoon of salt and baking powder into a bowl, and stir to combine. Add half of the stock or water and stir to combine. Add another ¼ and a bit more liquid until a dry dough forms. At this point, I work in the fat, some more liquid, a bit more salt and more masa as needed. If you have a mixer, use this to incorporate a bit of air into the dough.
Once you have a soft, playable dough together, you can add in the chopped pork, bacon and onions. I know, sacrilege! But we’re not making things traditional, and these taste great!
Season the dough with more salt, barbecue sauce, and a little hot sauce to your liking. Add more masa if the dough gets a little too wet. Slightly dry is ok, as you’ll be steaming these soon.
I usually let the dough sit a few minutes, as dry masa can be very thirsty.
At this point, I like to form the dough into mini ears of corn and wrap securely in the corn husks. Use a bit of string if you like. I even use a bit of plastic wrap if the dough is moist.
Gently steam in a large pot of water that you’ve brought to a boil and turned down to medium. I often place an upside down plate in the bottom of the pot to keep the tamales from sticking and burning. Steam for about a half an hour. Here we’ve served these with some store bought Pico de Gallo, some smashed avocado, squeazes of fresh lime, Queso Fresco, and pork rinds. Barbecue tamales y’all!
Appears in the August/September 2021 issue of Augusta Magazine.