That’s Cajun cuisine? Is it Creole? Is it more Spanish influenced or French? Who are the people behind it? Where can we find authentic menu items? Can anyone whip up a Cajun classic? There are so many questions when it comes to Cajun cooking, so let’s clear up the basics.
Cajun is not Creole. We have to stress this, even though the two cooking styles are strikingly similar. The difference comes from the people in the kitchens, rather than the ingredients themselves, which are otherwise identical. In both Cajun and Creole cuisine, there is heavy use of spices and roux, as well as the incorporation of seafood, and lots of it. Perhaps an ingredient that does differ would be the type of sausage? Cajuns favor Andouille sausage, while Creole cuisine leans toward Chaurice, a spicy cousin of the Spanish Chorizo.
Where to go? Well, you probably know the answer already. Of course you can find Cajun variations all across the United States, but if you’re immersing yourself into the authenticity of Cajun cuisine, you’ll no doubt be heading to Louisiana. Most chefs in the state prepare fusion plates, which incorporate the two styles (Cajun and Creole). However, history will show you that Cajun, in basic terms, is more provincial or “country,” while Creole cuisine, was influenced heavily by the richer French city goers.
Back in the 1700s, “the English exiled the French people who originally settled in Nova Scotia, which at the time was called Acadia,” explains Mary Goodbody, a cookbook writer and editor. Acadians were the country folk that farmed their own lands and lived the simple, hard-working life. They often had many people to feed in one sitting, and meals were easier to make by throwing everything in one giant pot and simmering it until the day’s work was done, hence the variation of today’s popular Cajun dish, gumbo (for which proper Cajun cooking does not use tomatoes in the dish). The word “Cajun,” as you can guess, came from a less formal pronunciation of Acadian.
We should also mention that crawfish play an extremely important role in the history and the cooking style of Cajun cuisine. Crawfish, known elsewhere as crawdads or crayfish, resemble tiny lobsters and pack a flavorful punch, especially when boiled in a thick, spicy seasoning.
If you’re looking for authentic Cajun cuisine, what’s better than Mulate’s, the “Original Cajun Restaurant?” If there’s one place to get good Cajun food, it’s right here in New Orleans. They’ve got everything from Jambalaya to fried gator, and every bite will send you straight to the banks of the bayou. For something truly delicious (and traditional) we recommend trying the Crawfish Étouffée, which smothers crawfish tails in a savory stew with a pile of white rice to tie everything together. It’s served in a cup or bowl, for your portion preference. Go for the bowl; you’ll still want more.
Another famous place to try out is Zydeco’s Cajun Restaurant on the West Bank. Top a salad off with fried crawfish tails, or try the Bayou Roll for a real treat. They’re stuffed with crawfish, crabmeat, and shrimp and fried to perfection. Dip it in the secret Zydeco sauce and hit a home run for your taste buds. When they’re in season, you’ve got to order the crawfish boil as well. It is a must-have during the spring/summer, when everything is hitting peak flavor, and you’ll pick through every inch of your plate with true Cajun joy in your heart.