My dreams are filled with beignets and etouffeé. The impact Louisiana left on me in a culinary sense was magic. I had no idea there was such a rich and diverse scene that dates back centuries. The way locals have blended together various influences of food from around the globe is unique to this state, and one I was happy to indulge. Super simply put, you can find Cajun cuisine more out in the suburb or country, while Creole has caught on more in the cities. But these days you can find either in both regions of Louisiana.
By the way, the best place I found for learning about southern cooking and its history was right by my New Orleans hotel, at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. It’s a fairly new establishment with a wonderful collection of memorabilia and educational areas to see the ins and outs of this cooking style. They are continually adding new exhibits and sometimes offer great workshops and cooking classes onsite as well. Also in the city is the Langlois cooking school, where you can cook both types of food side by side and truly get to know the differences and highlights of each bravura.
What’s the difference Between Cajun and Creole Cooking?
Some people claim the easiest way to tell the two culinary categories apart is look for tomatoes! Creole uses copious tomatoes in much of its dishes, while Cajun food is devoid of the fruit. Several dishes are modified in both styles of cooking – such as shrimp etouffeé. In the Cajun style, you’ll find the roux (thick sauce) to be darker and brown. The creole version has the tomatoes! Obviously, both are crazy delicious, but many people will claim one is better than the other.
Where to find the Best Cajun Food
I like to start my day with piles of pork while in the south. I mean, who doesn’t? At the B&O Kitchen & Grocery in Sulphur, Louisiana, they have some very interest breakfast options that are hearty and wonderfully satisfying. Here is the place to try boudin, which is often a Cajun-inspired sausage stuffed with pork and rice. Sometimes they make a version of boudin stuffed in cornbread to make it a bit more breakfast-y. You can get a bag of fresh made cracklin’ too to go on the road.
You can find Cajun in the city of New Orleans, and really good versions of it too. Head to Cochon for some sharable dishes and dangerous cocktails to go with them. The chicken & andouille gumbo goes perfectly with the crawfish pie starter – and don’t forget to order a heaping plate of fried alligator bites for the table.
Over in Lake Charles, Steamboat Bill’s has another great classic dish to sample. They serve up piles of pistolettes, which are basically dinner rolls stuffed with roux, shrimp and crawfish.
Where to Find the Best Creole Food
While I hadn’t the chance to visit Baton Rouge hotels or restaurants on my trip to Louisiana personally, I’ve heard incredible things about their famous dishes as well when it comes to serving up stellar Creole eats. A contemporary take on Creole can be found at Juban’s in Baton Rouge, including the succulent pork belly cassoulet.
As for New Orleans, you can’t go wrong with an evening at Arnaud’s, which is a historic icon in the city for locals and visitors alike. It’s well worth the splurge to see some of the best Creole cuisine in NOLA prepared before your very eyes. Have a warm bowl of turtle soup or one of their interestingly flavored oysters, like the oyster Ohan stuffed with eggplant and andouille sausage. Pair your frog legs Provençale with a French 75 as a main and you’ll fit right in. It tastes just like chicken, I promise.
No matter where you end up in Louisiana, don’t skip the beignets. They are doughy, beautiful things that appear on almost every menu, and are most famous covered in powdered sugar around New Orleans. But I also found savoury versions in several restaurants that were just as tasty.
Have you tried Cajun and Creole food? What is your favorite? What’s the best dish you’ve eaten while traveling?