|Pistolettes: image credit here|
Pistolettes: These little fried roll things are a delicacy that I had never heard of before. It is basically a roll stuffed with etouffee of some sort, and then fried. With the wonderful gravy inside, it tastes like you’re eating a slightly crunchy, flaky roll full of spicy gravy. There really are no words. We had crawfish pistolettes and cheese pistolettes, and I never found one I didn’t like.
étouffée: This gravy-based dish, served over rice most commonly with crawfish or other seafood cooked into it, is complex in flavor and often a little spicy. This is comfort food to the max and if I was in doubt as to what I wanted to eat, I always ordered the crawfish etouffee.
|Recipe and photo cred|
Boiled Crawfish: This is a required cultural experience if you spend time in Louisiana. We went to a restaurant that served crawfish with Austin’s coworker and split a giant tray of boiled crawfish. Commonly, potatoes and corn will also be boiled along with the shellfish and put in the tray. Then the feast begins. These buggers are small and it takes some skill to open them up to eat the crawfish tails. Our waitress was very helpful in giving us a quick tutorial:
1. Grasp crawfish by head with one hand and straighten out the tail and hold it with the other hand
2. Push the crawfish tail into the head, twist and pull.
3. Suck the crawfish head (optional).
4. Peel back the first piece of shell on the tail.
5. Grasp the flesh of the tail with one hand, straighten the tail with the other hand, and pull the flesh out.
6. Enjoy! And also repeat like 50 more times because there are a ton of little crawfish in the 2-3 lb. tray.
|Boiled crawfish tray|
For me, an étouffée loving girl, it’s just not worth it to go through the trouble of processing all of these whole crawfish, especially if a grumpy toddler is in your dinner party. Also, it is important to note that because the crawfish are served by the gigantic several pound tray, if you go too late in the evening, it is possible that the restaurant will run out of crawfish. We made the mistake of going too early to Steamboat Bill’s, the most famous Cajun restaurant in southwest Louisiana. We tried to order a tray of crawfish and ended up with boiled shrimp because they started serving crawfish at 5:30. I guess that is how this restaurant combats running out of crawfish!
|Gumbo at the cook-off!|
Gumbo: We had the unique pleasure of attending a gumbo cook-off. From what I could tell, there were no rules for gumbo. Whatever you wanted to go inside, from gator, to wild game sausage, to chicken. What mattered was that it had spices, maybe some beans, and some sort of meat. It was most commonly served over rice or with crackers. Austin’s favorite gumbo was very smoky tasting- too smoky for my taste (like eating a BBQ grill). My favorite was very flavorful and spicy with chicken and sausage. To each their own. I also tried some that tasted like dirt, so I’m not exactly sure what goes into a great gumbo, but I’d love to try my hand at making some one day!
|My favorite king cake|
King Cake: This lovely dessert is a special treat around Mardi Gras time. At the gumbo cook-off, many krewes were also serving king cake. It is a pastry dough filled with a fruit or custard filling and decorated on top with Mardi Gras colors or beads. Traditionally, a baby is placed inside and whoever gets the baby in their piece gets to make king cake for everyone the next year, or gets good luck, or lots of babies, or something like that. My favorite king cake had a cherry filling and a chocolate glaze over the top. YUMMY!
Po Boy: A po boy is basically a subway sandwich with fried meat, mayo, lettuce and tomato. I had two occasions to order shrimp po boys. The first time, I ordered it without mayo, and it was really dry, and the shrimp was not seasoned at all. It was not so enjoyable. The second time, at a different restaurant, I ordered it with mayo and all the fixings and it was delicious. Moral of the story: Some po boys are better than others, and I wouldn’t necessarily pick this over some of the other Cajun delicacies.
Fried Things: Want fried food? At any Cajun restaurant, you can find fried okra, fried mushrooms, fried anything! The fried okra was especially delicious with a spicy batter.
NOT SALAD: One tip I do have is to just forgo the salad bar. There were times when we went out to eat that I felt like eating a nice fresh salad. After looking at the sad little salad bar of wilty iceberg lettuce, ranch dressing, and a wide array of mayo-based salads, I always opted for something else. Unless you’re a huge fan of potato salad or macaroni salad, it is just not worth it.
In conclusion, Cajun food is delicious, but necessarily “health food”. I highly recommend it as a cultural experience when visiting Louisiana!