I grew up inland, a military brat/Latina who toggled her adolescence between the borderlands of Texas and the community surrounding one of the largest military bases in the U.S. As a result, I did not grow up eating seafood; I discovered the glorious riches of the salted and fresh waters later in my adult life.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was a slow dancer when it came to appreciating the many delicacies of the water, so it was a surprised me to learn how much I enjoyed eating a mudbug like a crawfish.
My love of crawfish keeps growing too, this is due in part to my discovery of Asian-Cajun crawfish on a recent food safari through Houston’s Chinatown, home to the third largest Southeast Asian population in the US. My friend Jenny Wang (aka imneverfull) took me on a tour of some of the best places to sample this newish food phenomenon. These places were everywhere; we stayed within a single section of Houston, but were still able to go to eight places in one day – and we only scratched the surface.
Getting ready to eat crawfish, some diners use plastic bag as bibs
The traditional Cajun way of making crawfish is to boil them with Crab Boil Seasoning and adding potatoes and corn before serving with generous amounts of Tony Chachere’s.
Within the last decade, Vietnamese immigrants working in the crawfish industry in Louisiana saw how the Cajun culture made crawfish, and they were inspired. They brought incredible Vietnamese flavor combinations and French influences to the basic Cajun style of boiling crawfish and took it to another level entirely.
Their boils begin with a mix of spices from the east, combined with butter, garlic, spicy chilies and other secret ingredients (the competition is so fierce amongst these eateries that they rarely share information about their ingredients). The resulting flavors are special, rich with depth and intensity. From salty to tangy lemon, followed by luscious butter and then intense heat. Wow! So addictive.
The the demand and craze for this delicacy has taken off too. The trend has migrated to a few large Vietnamese communities in the country. In 2008, California’s Orange Country and the surrounding area started seeing a crop of these Asian Cajun crawfish eateries.
This evolution in cooking crawfish is such an interesting cultural study that I just had to blog about it. It tells a story about human migration, and it teaches us about history while at the same time revealing something about social anthropology and culture in a world that is constantly changing. This is what I love about food culture, why I’m so drawn to photographing it. To me, that is something to get excited about.
Men play xiangqi in the food court at the Hong Kong City Mall in Houston where on weekends crowds gather to eat asian crawfish
Asian Cajun crawfish served in plastic backs filled with seasonings and spices then poured onto a plastic table covering
Asian Cajun crawfish covered in butter and various seasonings
Where I went:
Crawfish & Beignets
The Cajun Family
Crawfish and noodle