Philadelphia might have the cheese-steak sandwich. New York may boast of its pizza, and Texas has barbecue – but Southwest Louisiana has boudin, and eating it guarantees that a visitor will leave with a tingling palate, full stomach and an official certificate of their becoming a true Louisianian.
Boudin, a sausage made with meat and rice, is generally considered the signature food of Southwest Louisiana. It’s a culinary gift from the French Cajuns who settled in Louisiana after being sent out of Nova Scotia in the 1700s by the British. The sausage and its many recipes originated in the prairie regions of the Bayou State and traveled to Calcasieu Parish. Years ago, Cajun families would get together to slaughter a hog, an event known as a boucherie. The families left nothing to waste, so boudin was made with the leftover parts of the animal.
Today, boudin is made with ground pork, liver, rice, parsley, onions, salt, black pepper, red pepper, and other seasonings that vary from cook to cook. The sausages’ moisture, coarseness of the stuffing, stiffness of the casing and the meat-to-rice ratio vary. After prepared it is steamed or smoked.
In recent years many boudin producers have gotten creative by using shrimp, crawfish and alligator to mix with the rice that is eventually stuffed into natural casings. As the regions eaters get more health savvy, boudin can sometimes be found with organic ingredients, and some enterprising producers make vegetarian boudin.
But not matter where you find boudin, its recipe and geographic interpretation is strictly the province of the person who makes it.
Haven’t tasted boudin, you say? Why not give it a try on the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail. The route runs along U.S. Interstate 10, and lists mom and pop food establishments, specialty meat shops, and grocery stores that offer fresh or packaged boudin.
Have you tried boudin? What did you think?
Photo credit: Courtesy of TravMedia