Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Welcome to Cajun Country: the deliciousness that is Lake Charles, Louisiana

Fresh boudin sausage from Cajun Cowboy's Restaurant Vinton, LA
So, I just spent the past week eating my weight in boudin sausage (and lots of other local goodies) while visiting the Cajun culinary mecca of Lake Charles, Louisiana.  Lake Charles lies in the Southwestern part of the state, not too far from the Texas border, yet still deep south enough to be less than an hour and a half from the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.

Lake Charles is a charming place, where deep Southern accents prevail and just about everyone you meet is quick to offer a handshake, or when you're lucky, a big 'ole Cajun-style bear hug.  It's the kind of town where folks spend the afternoon crowding around unadulterated diner tables sipping coffee and sharing tall fishing and hunting tales.  The vibe here is pure Cajun pride, and locals are quick to share with visitors their favorite haunts to get real deal crawfish etouffee, shrimp gumbo, fried catfish or homemade deer sausage.

Yet, it's the Cajun boudin sausage that triumphs with pride throughout the area.  Hearkening back to the area's French culinary roots (by way of a mass Acadian exile from Nova Scotia in the 1700's), Southwest Louisiana's boudin sausage is akin to North Carolina barbecue, with numerous variations (and consequent debates as to whose is best) ranging from spicy smoked boudin to fresh boudin rouge spiked with pig's blood.  However, while each sausage tastes just a tad different, several constants remain in all forms of boudin. First, there's got to be plenty of cooked Louisiana long-grain rice mixed in with the roasted pork.  Second, there are spices galore, many of which are top secret, never to be revealed.  There's always a generous helping of fresh green onions, and finally, all this Cajun goodness is packed into fresh hog's intestines.

People are happy here, with an innate pride and joy that is most evidenced in the foods they create, especially their particular brand of boudin.  It's all about Cajun cooking.  From pork cracklin's to crawfish pistolettes, every bite that hits your palate simply bursts with spice, texture and the flavor of the deep south.  If you're serious about good eating, the many off-the-beaten-track pit stops that circumvent the town of Lake Charles are must-stops for any lover of real home-cooked food.  From diner dives to gas station gems, Lake Charles is one place where you can eat like a king on a peasant's salary.

Here's a little slide show primer of some of the best of the best that this unique area of Cajun country has to offer.

Boudin expert, Glenn Earl of Cajun Cowboys
Shrimp Po'Boy, fried catfish & collards from Hollier's Cajun Kitchen
Pork cracklin's and smoked sausage from The Sausage Link

Green onions, hog's intestines (used for natural boudin casings)and homemade hog's head cheese (bites).  The Sausage Link.

Fried crabs, frog legs, crab claws and crawfish pies from The Seafood Palace

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1 comment:

  1. I would so love to go on a Cajun food tasting like this!! It sounds wonderful.


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