New Orleans, Louisiana holds pride in the city’s delicious cuisine, outrageous nightlife, wild locals, and historic architecture. New Orleans blends southern flavor with French founded roots. One visit to New Orleans will expose you to a new language no other southern city can boast.
Grab a bowl of etouffee, sip on a hurricane, and listen to some Zydeco while we decipher New Orlean’s way of talk. You don’t want to be askin’ what roux is or the difference between Creole and Cajun or mistakenly call that delicious po’boy a ‘sandwich.’ This list of must-knows will get you beggin’ for some cracklins and yellin’ ‘WHO DAT?!’ in no time.
Beignets [pronounced: ben-yays]were made famous by the ever so popular New Orleans hot spot, Café du Monde. Beignets are pieces of fried dough with or without powdered sugar. Think of a funnel cake but not in a funnel.
New Orleans is referred to as the Big Easy. This name could have derived from the relaxed alcohol consumption during the Prohibition, the easy-going attitude, the low cost of living during the origin of the nickname, or the active Jazz and music scene.
Boudin [pronounced: boodan] is a spicy sausage extremely popular in Louisianan cuisine. Usually made with pork, the sausage contains meat, rice, and seasonings. Skip the embarrassment of pronouncing Boudin wrong by just asking for a ‘link.’
Instead of eating Boudin sausage, try Boudin balls. Boudin balls are simply the filling without the sausage casing. The filling is rolled into balls, battered, and then deep fried.
Cracklins are usually pronounced as such (not cracklings). Cracklins are pieces of pork skin, fat, and meat fried for upwards to an hour and then cooled and refried until they ‘crack’ or ‘pop.’
Creole vs Cajun:
Creole and Cajun are mistakenly used interchangeably. However, these two words and the food in which they describe might have similar characteristics but both are not the same.
Creole is not a word just associated with Louisiana. Creole simply means ‘of mixed descent.’ In Louisiana, Creole referred to the descendants of the settlers, those who were born in the colony. Most settlers were from African, Spanish, and French descent.
The word ‘Cajun’ derived from the term ‘les Acadians.’ Acadians were French settlers from the Acadia part of Canada.
Cajun food can simply be seen as ‘country’ cooking while Creole food is considered ‘city’ cuisine. To make it simple, Creole food incorporates tomatoes in staple dishes such as gumbo and Cajun food prefers without.
You might hear New Orleans referenced as the Crescent City. New Orleans was nicknamed as such because the Mississippi River flows in a crescent shape around the city.
Pronounced ‘eh-too-fay,’ étouffée is a Cajun or Creole thick stew in which usually includes shrimp or crawfish and vegetables in a light or brown roux (see definition of roux below) and served over rice.
One of the most popular and must-eat dishes found in New Orleans is gumbo. Gumbo can be made with vegetables such as tomatoes and okra with sausage, chicken, shrimp or most deliciously, crawfish. This soup is not as thick as étouffée. Gumbo is served with rice.
Created at the famous New Orleans restaurant called Pat O’Brien’s, a hurricane is a strong but sweet alcoholic drink. Pat O’Brien created the drink in the ‘40s when he had an influx of rum. The Hurricane is referenced as such because of the shape of the glass the drink is served in which resembles a hurricane lamp.
Traditional Hurricane Recipe:
2 oz light rum
2 oz dark rum
2 oz passion fruit juice
1 oz orange juice
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon simple syrup
1 Tablespoon grenadine
Garnish: orange slice and cherry
Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a Hurricane glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.
Jambalaya [pronounced: jum-bah-lie-ya] is another popular Louisiana dish. Jambalaya is a hearty rice dish with seasonings, crawfish, shrimp, or sausage, and vegetables.
Joie de vivre:
Joie de vivre [pronounced: zhwah duh veev-ruh] is a common French term in which describes New Orleans so well. Joie de vivre means a love or enjoyment for life.
New Orleans can be heard referenced as NOLA. N=New, O=Orleans, LA=Louisiana
A po’boy (po-boy, po boy) is a sub sandwich traditionally made with roast beef or crawfish.
The traditional French praline is soft candy made by sugar coating almonds. The Louisiana praline derived from the French praline but uses a local nut, the pecan. The texture of a praline candy can vary from creamy or even chewy. Most Louisianans prefer to use the pronunciation ‘pray-leen.’
Roux [pronounced: Roo] is the base of many authentic Creole and Cajun sauces and is used most popularly in gumbo and étouffée. Roux is a mixture of fat (usually butter) and flour.
During your visit to Louisiana, you might hear calls or see signs with the expression, ‘who dat?!’ ‘Who Dat’ gained popularity as a fan chant for the New Orleans NFL football team, the Saints. Who Dat dates back generations as an expression heard in the jazz scene.
Zydeco [pronounced: zie-deckoh] is a genre of music which has fast beats mixed with Cajun music, blues, and rhythm. The typical Zydeco song will be recognizable by an accordion and washboard.