What is Cajun Food?

Gumbo might be the most famous Cajun dish.
Gumbo might be the most famous Cajun dish.

The Cajuns are an ethnic group commonly found in the US state of Louisiana and are the descendants of the Acadians who were expelled from the Acadia region in Canada by the British. The Cajuns are mainly found in four regions of southern Louisiana; swamplands, prairie, coastal marshes, and levees and bayous. Cajun foods are among the most misunderstood cuisines in the world. However, they are some of the most distinct coming out of Louisiana. The cuisines are also known as “rustic cuisine” because it is prepared from the locally available ingredients. A Cajun meal is always cooked in three pots with one pot containing the main dish, the second one containing steamed rice, seafood, and special sausage, and the third dedicated to vegetables. Here are some of the most popular Cajun foods.

10. Po'Boy sandwich

Po'Boy sandwich has been a staple food in southern Louisiana and New Orlean since the 1920s. It is supposedly named after the men who were on strike from railroad companies popularly referred to as “poor boys.” The traditional sandwich consists of meat or seafood such as fish, shrimp, or crab. The roasted meat, usually beef, is served on a long, thin crusty bread which resembles the baguette. Dressed Po'Boy sandwich contain vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, and mayonnaise while the fried seafood type is often dressed with butter and sliced pickles.

9. Cornbread

Cornbread is a type of bread that contains cornmeal and leavened by baking powder. The bread is especially enjoyed because of its texture and aroma. It can either be baked, steamed or fried depending on one’s preference. Steamed cornbread is more like cornmeal pudding than bread. The most common cornbread among the Cajuns is the baked type. The southern cornbread is made with very little sugar with small amounts of flour. Butter and other ingredients such as butter and pork rinds can also be added during the baking process. Other variations of cornbread are the cracklin’ bread (with pork cracklings), hot water cornbread, corn pone, and Johnnycake.

8. Dirty rice

Dirty rice is Cajun’s classic and staple food. Although the name may sound strange, the food is far from being dirty. Dirty rice is simply white rice cooked with small pieces beef, pork, or chicken and other ingredients such as celery, green bell pepper, onion, and spices such as black pepper cayenne, causing the rice to appear “dirty” in color. The rice is first cooked using water and chicken broth then let to sit for about five minutes. The chicken or meat is finely chopped then fried until it turns brown. As soon as it starts turning brown, onion, celery, and green bell pepper are added. Finally, rice is added to the mixture and let to boil for a few minutes.

7. Jambalaya

Jambalaya is a type of food consisting of vegetables and meat mixed with rice. The meat used in the recipe is usually sausage of some sort along with chicken or pork, and seafood such as shrimp or crawfish. The vegetable used is a mixture commonly referred to as “holy trinity,” consisting of green bell pepper, celery, and onion. Some other vegetable such as carrots, okra, tomatoes, garlic, and chili can also be used. The meat and vegetables are first browned and then rice and broth are added. The dish is allowed to cook for about 30 minutes until the rice is fully cooked.

6. Boudin

Boudin is a sausage of various kinds common in many parts of the world including Louisiana. The term “boudin” means “blood sausage” and its origin is quite unclear. The boudin ball is a type of boudin common among the Cajun people. It is a spicy pork sausage made with rice and green onion and deep-fried. The sausage balls can be made at home but are commonly sold in local butchers and roadside stores.

5. Rice and gravy

Rice is a popular crop in southwest Louisiana and has become a staple. Rice and gravy are made from meat such as beef, chicken, and pork, or any other available meat. The meat is often cooked with the Cajun holy trinity of celery, onion, and bell pepper, and any other preferred vegetable. The meat is traditionally cooked in cast iron pot for a long time to allow the tough pieces of meat to become tender. Rice and gravy was originally a dish for laborers and farmers but is now a common household dish.

4. Gumbo

Gumbo is one of the most favorite foods among the Cajun people. The dish displays an influence of the African, French, and Spanish on the culture of the Cajun cuisine. The name of the dish initially meant okra which was introduced in the region from West Africa. However, okra is the principal ingredient used in preparing the dish. Thus, gumbo is spicy meat and seafood stew with okra and thickened with a file made from sassafras leaves after the stew has been cooked. Other ingredients that may be included in the dish are celery, pepper, and chili.

3. Crawfish pie

Crawfish is a popular delicacy in Louisiana and cooked in various forms; boiled, fried, or mixed with other foods. Crawfish pie is a baked savory pie often served at the end of the meal. It is similar to a hot pie with the only difference is that it contains crawfish. Although plain crawfish is popular among the Cajun people, some of the ingredients may be added to it, including the Cajun trinity of onion, bell pepper, and celery.

2. Etouffee

Etouffee is a dish served with either shrimp, crawfish, or shrimp over rice. The name Etouffee is a French word meaning “smothered.” The dish employs the smothering technique in its preparation. It is commonly prepared from shellfish such as shrimp or crab and flavored with Cajun seasonings. During spring, fresh seafood is often used in preparing the dish while frozen seafood is used during winter.

1. Alligator

Alligator and other game meats are common dishes in Louisiana and the rest of the country. Alligators are sources of both eggs and meat. The meat is especially popular because it is considered healthy due to the low fat and high protein composition. However, the alligators can only be legally sourced from alligator farms and not in the wild. The meat can be prepared in several ways including margination, tenderization, deep frying, stewing, roasting, sauteeing, and smoking. Alligator meat can also be used in other dishes such as gumbo.


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