As any New Orleans tour will tell you, the Big Easy is world-famous for its iconic Creole cuisine, mixing influences from French, Spanish, West African, and Native American cooking. Here are a few of the most famous foods to emerge from New Orleans:
A Louisiana adaptation of West African okra soup, gumbo is a delicious stew that has become synonymous with Creole cooking. Like most Creole dishes, gumbo starts with a roux made of flour and fat and also includes stock, meat or seafood, and the Creole “holy trinity”: celery, bell peppers, and onions. Traditionally, seafood gumbo was most popular in the summer when okra was especially plentiful, and winter gumbo was made with chicken or other meat. Chicken gumbo often replaces the okra with a special Creole spice called filé, made of ground sassafras leaves.
Jambalaya is a rice-based dish first made by Gullah creoles brought from Africa to Louisiana by the slave trade. Rice is the only consistent ingredient in jambalaya, and different cooks will use different mixtures of meat, seafood, and vegetables. The holy trinity of celery, bell peppers, and onions are very common ingredients in jambalaya as well. In New Orleans, jambalaya is considered a basic starter dish for anyone learning how to cook – once you’ve mastered jambalaya, you can move on to more complicated meals like gumbo and étouffée.
A French dessert that has been altered by the people of New Orleans, a beignet (pronounced ben-YAY) is a deep-fried pastry made from leavened dough and generously covered in powdered sugar. These tasty treats are often eaten as breakfast in NOLA, although they make a perfect snack at any time of day. The most famous place to buy beignets is the French Quarter’s Cafe du Monde, a New Orleans staple originally founded in 1862. The cafe is open 24/7, except on Christmas or during a hurricane, so feel free to indulge your cravings at any time.
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