CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF NEW ORLEANS' CUISINE
We take you around New Orleans, exploring the multicultural heritage of the local cuisine. Come with us on a quest to finding the best mix of varied culinary traditions, fresh seafood and just the right seasoning to spice up every dish
Words: Aleksandra Georgieva
Photography: Shuttersnap, Jennifer Pallian
Spread along the Mississippi River in south eastern US, lays the economic and commercial hub of the entire Gulf Coast region. Globally known for its unique music, annual festive celebrations and distinct dialect, New Orleans remains the heart of the Creole and seafood cuisine. We take you for a spin around the colourful, cross-cultural food of the people of New Orleans.
The indigenous cuisine of the consolidated city-parish is world-famous for its distinctive and influential origin. Local ingredients combine a wide variety of Spanish, French, African, Italian, Cajun, Chinese, Native American and even a hint of Cuban traditional cuisine. The flavour of New Orleans remains unique and therefore easily recognisable. For difficulty of replicating the notable local taste, tourists from all corners of the globe visit the destination, ranked among the ten of "America's Favorite Cities" in 2009 by Travel+Leisure.
The seafood is so popular in New Orleans beyond the city’s influence of complex heritage, and cultural variety. The destination’s location allows locals easy access to fresh seafood. New Orleans stands where the Mississippi River flows into the Gulf of Mexico. This means that the locals in the area benefit from both freshwater and saltwater fish and shellfish.
Founded in 1718 by French colonists, to this day New Orleans remains notably cross-cultural. The city’s multilingual heritage and various cultural influences layered a unique cuisine, consisting of some of the most distinctively recognised regional dishes in the whole of the United States. While some of the cuisine originates from New Orleans, certain dishes have made their way in the kitchen of locals due to popularity in the surrounding areas of the Mississippi River Delta.
New Orleans specialties include beignets (square-shaped fried dough served with café au lait), Italian muffuletta sandwiches, Creole dishes such as gumbo and jambalaya, the traditional red beans and rice, and the local praline (a candy made with brown sugar and peacans). One of the biggest influence to the city’s varied cuisine is seafood. Gulf oysters served fried or on the half-shell are one of the most popular dishes among locals, alongside boiled crawfish and many others.
The prominence of the seafood cuisine in New Orleans meets the complexity of Creole dishes, cooked with unique techniques and local ingredients. Preparation of the complex sauces that grace the dining tables in the city often feature celery, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and okra. Alongside Creole dishes and soul food, New Orleans’ seafood specialties are also heavily influenced by Cajun cuisine. Partly based on the French’ taste, Cajun dishes are hearty, complex in flavour, yet easy to prepare. The use of spices is overthrown by rich seasoning including garlic and hot peppers, which complement the commonly used shellfish.
New Orleans is one of the few places on Earth with such rich cuisine, mixing the traditional dishes of a variety of nations with the local seafood dominance, and Cajun preparation techniques. Saltwater and freshwater seafood is always available where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico. Culinary techniques are passed down the generations, origination from a variety of cultures that mix in fine balance. Multicultural heritage and hearty dishes create one of the world’s most unique and delicious cuisine people create.
New Orleans, culinary mix is a proof that people are capable of creating pure masterpieces, culinary or not, if only they come together gathering inspiration from one another’s heritage. Where various cultures blend into one, cherishing the influence of the past alongside the gifts of local ingredients creates dishes one can only try locally. It is no wonder so many travellers head to this culinary bucket list destination and indulge in all the culinary wonders locals continue to create.