The Atlanta barbecue scene is badly underestimated, it appears, even by bloggers who blog in this city. From this perspective, it’s merely a boring repetitious set of chain eateries, whose products are predictable and monotonous, and whose only differentiating factor are the sides or perhaps the sauce.

I have news for ya’ll: this also is Atlanta barbecue.

Stuffed with barbecue

See that dumpling? It comes from Canton House, the famous dim-sum place on Buford, and yes, it’s full of barbecue.

In this city, perhaps you didn’t know, but the Koreans have barbecue, the Chinese have barbecue, and the Vietnamese add barbecued meat to their banh mi.

meat on the "barby" at "Iron Age"

Honey BBQ from Ming's BBQ

 

Since the work barbecue itself comes in part from the Taino people of the Caribbean, it also appears that the Southern style of cooking meat is also a direct descendent of the Caribbean barbacoa.

That suggests strongly that jerk chicken, from Jamiaca and smoked, is also a style of barbecue.

Tastee's (Snellville) jerk chicken: Is this a kind of barbecue?

Is it or isn’t it? I’m not claiming barbecue expertise. I’m merely a student in this genre.

What about pastrami? It’s a smoked meat, isn’t it? How closely related is pastrami to barbecue?

Even restricting the point of view to “Southern barbecue”, I’ll note that there are two common ways to prepare meats in this “style”, and that is to smoke the meat indirectly (leads to a smoke ring and great smoke flavor), or to broil the meat and then finish it on the grill (grill lines, and fall off the bone tender). The latter is indeed favored by chain restaurants. It’s easier, and you’re in no danger of running out of product around 3 pm in the afternoon. They’re easily distinguised, by the presence or absence of smoke rings on the meat.

"Steve's Sampler" from Big Shanty Smokehouse

Getting back to Texas style barbecue: using Robb Walsh’s book as a reference, I counted 6 kinds of Texas barbecue. Using the same source, the Wikipedia counts four. Looking over various Wikipedia entries (like this one on US barbecue, and this one on Texas barbecue), the Wikipedia missed the Caddo Indian style (not common anymore), and I counted the Southern Texas style perhaps twice. So, four styles are extant currently. To note, as Robb Walsh says:

When visitors from Carolina and Tennessee come to Texas, they are generally astonished to find that we eat a lot of pork here as well as beef brisket. That’s the problem with the beef generalization. Yes, we barbecue beef – but we’re fond of other meats.

I know this to be true, for when visiting relatives in Granbury, Texas, I had some good pork ribs over in Glen Rose.

Pork ribs from Glen Rose TX. The smoke ring is clearly visible on these ribs.

If you talk to bloggers who actually smoke meats in their spare time, they’ll note a merrily promiscuous character to Atlanta barbecue. The city doesn’t appear to care what is good, it just adopts any style that tastes good. So I’ll reiterate the question that comes to me after all this:  just how many different kinds of barbecue can you count in this city?

It wasn’t something I thought of much when I was on Guam. They were wild, they had been there at least since the Spanish arrived in the Marianas, they were spread.. how? A common theory is as they are pequin type peppers (e.g. bird peppers), that birds spread them from island to island.

There is however a comment on the Wikipedia that the common Guam/Saipan boonie is some kind of Thai ornamental pepper. The reasoning behind this is that the peppers point upwards on both plants.  However, there are some problems with this thesis. For one the Guam boonie isn’t classified as the same species as the Thai ornamental. I verified this by emailing New Mexico State University’s Chili Pepper Institute, who replied:

…we have the Guam Boonie as a Capsicum frutescens, it is not the same thing as a Thai. Hope this helps, thanks for writing

The second is that they’re hardly the same size. While the Guam boonie reaches well over 3 feet in height, the Thai ornamental is a plant that gets to 12-18 inches high.

I wrote my bachelor’s alma mater, the University of Guam, and got a couple interesting comments out of that. From a comment from Phoebe Wall to a member of the alumni group at UOG I get this:

The “boonie pepper” is definitely Capsicum frutescens. There is a lot [of] variation in types. I imagine [Food Near Snellville] is probably referring to the donne’ sali (the small one that is really pika).

and from Professor Mari Marutani (she’s the resident UOG expert on the Guam boonie)  I received this reply:

Hi [Food Near Snellville],
Two hot pepper plants are known in Guam. One is “donne’sali” (C. frutescens) that is characterized to have small, bright red, and very pungent fruits. The other is “donne’ ti’au” (C. annuum), a long, red and pungent pepper. “Donne’sali” has long been harvested from the wild and “donne’ ti’au” is mainly grown in the backyard garden. Selections of each were documented once as ‘Guam Super Hot’ donne’sali, (C. frutescens), and ‘Guam Regular Hot’ possibly a selection of donne’ti’au C. annuum. ‘Guam Super Hot’ is very pungent having Scoville heat unit of 4000-4250, while ‘Guam Regular Hot’ was reported to have an average of 3450 (Lee, C. T. 1987. ‘Guam Super Hot’ chili pepper. HortScience 22:1341). However, unfortunately original specimens of both ‘Guam Super Hot’ and ‘Guam Regular Hot’ have been lost and we will not be able to examine them.

Occasionally, some farmers sell their own selected lines and wild hot peppers (‘boonie’ peppers) to the roadside vendors and local supermarkets. Since there is a great possibility of cross pollination (often by bees), this self-pollinated plant often has a genetic variations in natural environment. People of Guam know there are variation of Donne sali. For example, Mr. Cruz has one kind and Mrs. Santos has slightly different one, hotter or very PIKA.

Mari

In short, the boonie is not the Thai pepper. And what you get may vary considerably, due to genetics.