It is hard to ignore the aroma curling up from the grill at Carolina BBQ when you’re cruising down St. 460 in Russian Market. One whiff is enough for any meat-lover to pull over and inspect what is going down in the big ol’ smoker sitting on the restaurant’s front deck.
Succulent, flavourful meat that is slow-cooked at 121°C for a minimum of six hours is what’s promised at Carolina BBQ. As American co-founder Drew Price put it: “Low and slow does it.”
Some of the items on the menu include Australian beef burger or grilled chicken burger, served with a side of fries for $6, pulled pork BBQ Sandwich for $5.50, Buffalo wings for $6 and pork bites for $3. It is recommended to try them with homemade sauce: original BBQ, Carolina mustard BBQ and Carolina sweet ‘n’ spicy BBQ.
The main highlights, however, are the plate set of barbecued chicken for $6, plate set of pulled pork for $7 and plate set of pork ribs for $9.50. Each set comes with two sides. You get to pick from waffle fries, coleslaw, mac ‘n’ cheese, baked beans, potato salad or rice. If you are not a big eater, you can also get the barbecues a la carte for $3, $4 and $6.50 respectively.
“Barbecues are considered a little pricey. It’s true. But a lot of work goes into perfecting it. A large pork shoulder would take between 8-10 hours to cook while smaller pieces could take between 6-8 hours. The ribs take about 6 hours to cook.
“The cuts of meat that we use is not something you can just throw on the grill and expect a tender piece. It has to cook slowly for the tendons and the muscle fibers to break down and for the fat to render. That’s how you get good pulled pork,” he said.
Drew said there is no cutting corners here at Carolina BBQ. What one would get at an American smokehouse is the same as one would here.
“We use ingredients just like we would in the U.S. We use real cheddar cheese, not processed cheese. For our burgers, they must have pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato ketchup and mustard. There are a lot of other shops selling burgers, for instance, but they always do something different which is not really authentic,” he said.
Food has always played a big part in Price’s life. Hailing from Greenville, South Carolina, barbecue obviously has a special place in his heart. But Price said the fond memories he had of food first started with his family.
“When I was a kid I would always help my mom cook. She’s a busy woman with a full-time job and she had her own cooking show on the local network. It didn’t matter how tired or how bad her day was, at the end of the day we would always have a good meal on the table.
“Most of the stuff that I know how to make today I learned from my mom and of course, other people. But she gave me a good foundation of how to cook. Even now when I hit a wall when it comes to new recipes, I would call and ask for her advice,” he said.
The 38-year-old said his passion for food was what motivated him to open his own barbecue restaurant – even if it means leaving the United States and moving to a foreign Southeast Asian country.
“I was a sous chef for a while and I thought I was ready to open up my own shop. I was mullling with the idea of a food truck but right before I get everything in order, a very well-known barbecue place beat me to it. They opened up a food truck in my hometown. So I thought it would not go well for me.
“Then I was speaking to a friend who was living in Phnom Penh and he said I should come over and start a business here instead. I brushed it off at first because sure, it makes sense to move 10,000 miles away from home just to open a barbecue place.
“The more I think about it, the more sensible the idea sounds. So four months later, in August 2017, I sold off my belongings and came here,” he said, adding that yesterday (Thursday) actually marked Carolina BBQ’s fifth month in business.
Head on over for a plate of smoked meat or for a chat with Price. Carolina BBQ is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 10pm.