I love delving into traditional recipes from the South, learning new things or rediscovering classics. Perloo (pronounced purlow, and sometimes spelled that way, or pilau, or any number of variations) is a dish I first heard of when my brother returned from a trip to South Carolina and suggested that I figure out how to make it. He described is as kind of a jambalaya or dirty rice, but somehow different. So over the years, I have read recipes and fiddled around with the idea, but never really understood it. Until I traveled to South Carolina and had a version of perloo in Charleston. Perloo, you see, comes in all shapes and sizes. Chicken, duck, shrimp, oyster sausage or a combination. The one I ordered had several main ingredients, in a flavorful bed of rice. I settled on shrimp perloo, because I love the combination of big, juicy shrimp and rich, seasoned rice, plus the shrimp give it a low country feel.
I’ve streamlined more traditional recipes to produce the rich flavor that could be a great party dish or a weeknight meal. If you can get your hands on some Carolina Gold rice, use that for an authentic version, but long grain white works for me. I find good seafood stock made with shrimp at the grocery, but use a flavorful vegetable stock if you can’t. Of course, it you have fresh, head on shrimp, you can go full traditional and make your own stock with the heads and shells.
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 1 ½ pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon celery salt
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- dash of cayenne
- 6 strips bacon, diced
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 celery stalks, chopped (about ½ cup)
- 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped (about ½ cup)
- 14.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups seafood stock (or vegetable stock)
- 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- Place the rice in a bowl and cover with cool water by about an inch. Leave to soak for ten minutes, then strain the rice through a fine mesh sieve. Rinse the rice with cool water, shaking it around a few times, until the water coming out of the sieve is clear and not cloudy. Don’t skip this step, it will keep the perloo fluffy and not gummy. Set the cleaned rice aside.
- Pat the shrimp dry and spread out on a plate. Mix the sweet and smoked paprika, celery salt, salt and pepper together and sprinkle evenly over the shrimp. Keep the shrimp in the fridge until ready to use.
- Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid until it is crispy and brown. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon and set aside. Carefully pour off all but 3 Tablespoons of bacon grease and leave it to cool in the pot for a few minutes. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are soft and the onions translucent. Do not brown. Add the rice and stir to coat with the fat. Cook for about 2 minutes until the edges of most of the grains are a little translucent. Add the tomatoes, seafood stock, parsley and bay leaf and stir a few times to combine. Do not stir a lot, just distribute the ingredients. Bring the perloo to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 12 minutes. Quickly peek under the lid to make sure the liquid is absorbed. If it needs another few minutes, cover the pot and keep cooking.
- When the liquid is absorbed into the rice, sprinkle the reserved bacon pieces over the top over the, then spread the shrimp out over the rice. It’s okay if there are two layers. Cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes on low, then turn off the heat and leave for a further five minutes. Take the lid off, and use a spatula to gently fold the rice over the shrimp. Do not stir like crazy or agitate things too much or the rice will get gluey. If the shrimp are not fully cooked, cover the pot and put it back on low heat for a few minutes.
- When the shrimp are cooked through, use two forks to gently fluff the rice. Serve immediately.
Nancie McDermott says
This looks gorgeous and I cannot wait to try it. Never heard of this dish up here in North Carolina until the last few years. I like that it has many names and many variations.
Mary Frances says
This dish looks so delicious, what a great combination of flavors! A great example of old fashioned home cooking.
Looks like a very good recipe! I will be trying this recipe this weekend for football Saturday! But I would like to add that this is a jambalaya! Us Southerners are very possessive about our recipes. And no matter what the Carolina’s decide to call it I assure you it’s Jambalaya! And yes it comes in many variations! That comes from the diversity of culture in Louisiana! French/Creole gotta love it!
This recipe is not a jambalaya. It is a lowcountry shrimp/rice perlo. In the Carolina’s we make chicken perlo, sausage perlo, etc. So call it what you will in Louisiana, but it the Carolina’s, we have our own names. Either way you want to call it, it’s delish!!
Luanne Chubb says
The flavors are delicious! Great tip about soaking the rice! We made it for the Super Bowl and can’t stop eating it. If you prep the vegetables in advance, it will make a quick after work meal. Thanks for the great recipe.
Michele Culbreath says
Just for those who may be confused. This dish may look like and be similar to a jambalaya, but it is not, i repeat, NOT a cajun or creole dish. The South Carolina Lowcountry has a rich rice history and culture all it’s own and we have our own dishes that have been made and passed down for hundreds of years. I love cajun/ creole food, but this is what I grew up on in the lowcountry of SC and we call it perlo/pilau/ pronounced per-low.
Frances Wheeler says
I was raised in Savannah and my Mama made a simple shrimp and rice dish by this name that was wonderful. She seasoned it with bacon drippings and some secret ingredient that was her special touch. I now make it with Better Than Bouillion lobster flavor, don’t have access to fresh shrimp for stock here. Still use the bacon drippings and the small sweep shrimp.
MY GRANDFATHER MADE THIS & IT WAS FANTASTIC. HE WAS BORN, RAISED IN SUMPTER,SC. I WISH HE WERE HERE TO MAKE IT NOW. THANKS POP!