Food is a huge deal in Louisiana. I was in New Orleans just last year, and the number of restaurants was baffling. One of the girls I was traveling with knew basically every stop we had to make, and every food we had to try. We only had a weekend, though, so we didn’t make it through them all.
Interestingly, Louisiana has two distinct types of food that are very popular: Cajun and Creole. Cajun food was introduced by Cajuns (shocking, I know), who were French-speaking people from Acadia (now known as Nova Scotia). Creole was created by a mix of different cultures, but with the most influence coming from French and Spanish cuisines.
Here are some of the must-try foods of Louisiana, the next time you visit:
Gumbo is a stew that usually contains shellfish, vegetables (typically onion, celery, and bell peppers), and something to thicken it up (i.e. roux, which was used in the True Blood recipe made last week). Sometimes another type of meat will be used in place of and/or in addition to the shellfish, and more types of vegetables may be added as well. Okra is a popular vegetable to add, and sometimes file powder will be added as well. And then the gumbo is ladled over top of rice before serving.
Jambalaya is similar to gumbo, but is heavier on the rice and almost always includes sausage. The rice is also usually cooked with the jambalaya, whereas it’s a last minute addition in gumbo. It’s more like a paella than a stew.
Mmmm…beignets. These wonderful little doughy bites are so delicious! They are made by deep-frying dough, and then smothering the fried dough bites in powdered sugar.
The best place for beignets in Louisiana (or at least the “go-to” place for beignets) is Cafe du Monde, located in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter.
Red Beans and Rice
Red beans and rice is a Creole dish that was traditionally served on Mondays using the pork bones leftover from Sunday’s dinner, and is often still served as a Monday lunch special in New Orleans restaurants.
It’s made of red beans, veggies, spices, and pork bones, and additional meats (usually sausage or ham) are often added as well.
Rice and Gravy
Rice and gravy is pretty much what it sounds like – gravy on top of rice – but the gravy is made with chunks of meat, and sometimes veggies as well. It’s all cooked in a (usually cast-iron) pot for hours until the meat is really tender.
A po-boy is a sandwich, usually including fried seafood (shrimp, oysters, crawfish or crab), that is served on a baguette. Sometimes the seafood is substituted with roast beef or fried chicken. They almost always have melted butter and pickles in them as well, on top of the usual lettuce, tomato, and mayo.
The po-boy is so popular in New Orleans, that they have an annual festival to celebrate them (the Oak Street Po’Boy Festival)!
The muffuletta is another popular sandwich in New Orleans. It was brought over by Italian immigrants, and so it’s served on an Italian, round, flattened loaf of bread called…guess what? Muffuletta loaf. To make the sandwich, the loaf is stuffed with olive salad, salami, ham, Swiss cheese, provolone, and mortadella.
The best place for a muffuletta in Louisiana is the very store at which it was created: Central Grocery Co. in New Orleans.
New Orleans pralines are NOT your average praline. These sugary snacks are to die for! The base recipe includes brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and pecans, but people sometimes add other additives, like shredded coconut or chocolate.
We tried the creamy pralines at Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop in New Orleans, but there are many other places to buy these amazing treats!
This is exactly what it sounds like: soup made from turtle. In Louisiana, you typically find the “Creole” option, which includes butter, flour, crushed or pureed tomatoes, celery, green bell pepper, boiled eggs, various spices, dry sherry, and lemon, as well as various other additives.
In New Orleans, King Cake is made specifically for the Mardi Gras/Carnival season. Traditionally a small figurine of a baby is hidden inside of the cake, to symbolize the baby Jesus. The baby brings luck and prosperity to whoever finds it within their slice of cake. Some traditions designate that person “king” or “queen” for the day, dictate that they are responsible for purchasing next year’s cake, and/or that they must throw next year’s Mardi Gras celebration.
Usually the cake includes nutmeg and cinnamon, and it’s frosted and decorated in purple, green, and gold. The colors honor the three kings who visited the baby Jesus.