It's Mardi Gras season, and you're in the mood for a New Orleans-inspired food adventure, but you're not sure where to go or what to try. The terms and dishes can be a little daunting, for sure, but here's a quick down-and-dirty cheat sheet to guide your dining decisions-.
A little background: Creole and Cajun cuisines are similar due to the French heritage of both cultures, and they both incorporate the "holy trinity" of onions, bell peppers and celery as a base, but the terms are not necessarily interchangeable.
Creole is often thought of as "city food," while Cajun is considered "rustic." It is said that a Creole feeds one family with three chickens, and a Cajun feeds three families with one chicken.
Gumbo is perhaps the most iconic Louisiana dish and can be Creole or Cajun, depending on how the roux (pronounced roo) is made. Enjoy the deep flavor of the Cajun Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo at Highway 61 Roadhouse in St. Louis. In Columbia, stop by Glenn's Café for a hearty cup of New Orleans Seafood Gumbo and a side of their bread pudding with whiskey sauce (ok, it's not a side but it is a must-try).
Confused about the difference between jambalaya and etouffee (pronounced eh-too-fey)? Jambalaya, a distant cousin of paella, is a broth-based rice dish that includes the holy trinity and shellfish and/or sausage. The Creole version has tomatoes; the Cajun version does not. Etouffee means "smothered" in French and is a roux-based dish served over rice.
Can't decide which one to try? Order the New Orleans Medley at Lake of the Ozarks' Shorty Pants and sample both. Ready to give crawfish (aka mudbugs) a try? Sample the crawfish etouffee at Boudreaux's Louisiana Seafood and Steaks in St. Joseph.
Traditionally, boudin (pronounced boo-dan) is sausage stuffed with pork and rice and is about as Cajun as it gets. Broussard's in Cape Girardeau – located on the Mississippi River, like New Orleans – serves house-made spicy pork and crawfish boudin.
Wanna know what makes a po' boy a po' boy? It's the bread. It must be crusty on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. Broadway Oyster Bar in St. Louis imports fresh-baked bread from Gambino's in New Orleans for their po' boys, made with lobster, shrimp, oysters, catfish or crawfish. The Big Easy Grill in Springfield also offers a variety of po' boys to choose from including roast beef, shrimp, oyster and sausage.