Order the Korean fried chicken wings first, then begin to mull over the flavors Setrini Sison is bringing to the Charleston dining scene. Crunchy, sweet, salty, savory, spicy, bitter — and umami, of course.
"I want to bring you to the edge of your tastebuds, to make you think," says Sison. The Filipino-born chef and Charleston native says his Asian fusion pop-up, Bok Choy Boy, explores — and "celebrates" — the flavors of Japan, Korea, the P
hilippines, and Macau.
Sison started the pop-up this past Sept., setting up (with the help of his wife) at Summerville's Wide Awake Brewing Company. Since then, he's popped up at local breweries and collaborated with other area chefs, like Marcus Middleton of Middleton Made Cuisines; they did a "Low Asian" event at Freehouse Brewery, combining Lowcountry and Asian cuisine. He'll be at Tradesman Brewing Co. tomorrow, featuring dumplings from his friends over at Sarah's Dumps, and Bok Choy Boy takes over the kitchen at Spanglish Mon. Jan. 13.
It's a packed schedule, but Sison is up for the challenge. He has a culinary degree from DuPage, and has staged at top eateries in Charleston and Chicago — his first sous gig was at Mario Batali's Eataly. When Sison and his wife moved back to the Lowcountry from the Windy City, he worked as sous under Craig Diehl at Cypress before they closed, then went on to serve as sous chef at Rappahannock Oyster Bar. From Italian to seafood to cured meats, he's done it all. But his heart is with Filipino cuisine.
Local online dumpling biz, Sarah's Dumps, pops up at Fatty's Beer Works this Sat. with traditional, vegan, and buffalo dumplings
Handmade mandu for your mouth
Sarah Williams-Scalise and her husband Nathan say they haven't spent this much time talking in years. For the past few months, late at night and on the weekends, they've spent hours and hours in their kitchen, gently folding dumplings filled with ground beef, cabbage, onions, kimchi. They've got a few dipping sauces up their sleeves, too, though Sarah says you certainly don't need them. The dumps are delicious on their own.
Sison's regular menu, which you can find at his frequent brewery pop-ups, includes egg rolls, croquettes filled with sweet Filipino sausage and pimento cheese, japchae (Korean stir-fried glass noodles) with marinated beef and veggies, those addictive Korean fried wings battered and tossed in Gochujang glaze, and a pork rice bowl with seared pork glazed in banana ketchup.
For his Spanglish takeover, look for additions to that lineup like crab fat fried rice with spam, ube whoopie pie with pandan creme, and a nori and pork candy rice crisp. That last concoction has received mixed reviews, admits Sison. I tried a bite (post wings, japchae, and egg rolls) at Sison's Ghost Monkey pop-up and my mind immediately tried to reconcile: sweet and seaweed? It doesn't make sense on paper, but in reality it brings you to the edge of your tastebuds, just as he promised.