The Cajun-Food Craze Invades OC
AND... What’s Not to Love About it?
October is National Seafood Month... and we couldn't be happier about it. Here in Southern California it seems like it's ALWAYS a good day for a fresh pescatarian-style meal. Now, let's spice things up a bit for all you year-round seafood eaters. We’ve all heard about (and some have been lucky enough to experience firsthand) the down-home feel of Cajun cooking in Louisiana. What is Cajun cuisine? It developed regionally within a group of people in the Acadian region of Louisiana, deported by the British out of Canada in the mid 1700's. While it's traditionally thought of as mixed rice dishes like jambalaya and gumbo, the proximity to the ocean allowed seafood to become a staple of Cajun cuisine. Cajun flavors are spicy, usually involving cayenne pepper, smoky paprika, and earthy flavors from cumin and coriander. The combination of fresh Gulf seafood, the spicy cuisine and the warm Southern charm make for an amazing meal.
“Sea-foodies” know that there’s no better way to get into fresh steamed crab, shrimp, crawfish and the like than with a big bib and tons of napkins, with nothing but your hands and maybe a pair of crab crackers.
Turns out, you don’t have to go all the way to the Deep South to get that rustic, tactile eating experience; there’s an amazing collection of Cajun seafood restaurants right here in Orange County.
The Wharf in downtown Garden Grove is serving Cajun with an Asian flair. Though they’re doing traditional Cajun-style hotpot and a raw oyster bar, the flavors are kicked up even more with Asian spices and toppings like scallions, peppers, even Thai chilies and cilantro. Where else can you eat chicken wings, jambalaya and edamame in one place?
THE WILD CRAB
The Wild Crab is in the Little Saigon neighborhood of Garden Grove, and the Asian influence can definitely be tasted here. Enjoy traditional hotpots with seafood choices like Dungeness crab, snow crab, clams, lobster and more, with 4 different sauce choices including “Wild Style.” The Wild Crab shows its Asian flair by offering yakitori, seafood eggrolls and coconut snail.
THE KICKIN' CRAB
The Kickin’ Crab has 5 locations in Orange County, serving a build-your-own plate where you can include shrimp, crab, mussels, crawfish and more and combine it with traditional corn on the cob and potatoes. Choose from extra mild to “spicy spicy,” which Kickin’ Crab says will make you say “Yeehaaw!! Hot Hot!!”
Ritter’s Steam Kettle Cooking has a Cajun/Creole menu, featuring preparation of your entrée right in front of you in a jacketed steam kettle. Choose from a spice level of 1 to 10, with great traditional fare like soft shell crab, fried pickles, and catfish po’boys.
THE BOILING CRAB
The Boiling Crab has 3 locations in OC, a small restaurant chain offering boiled-in-bag Cajun-spiced crawfish, oysters, shrimp & other shellfish. Another restaurant fusing in Asian flavors, everything is boiled in a garlic/lemon/paprika hot sauce called “The Whole Shabang.” Chosen as one of the top seafood restaurants in OC by OC Weekly, the first Boiling Crab opened in 2004 and regularly has a line out the door to grab some shucked raw oysters or suck the heads off fresh crawfish.
Kettlebar, with 2 locations in OC, is also offering steam cooking to serve their Cajun and Creole fare, including jambalaya, etoufee and gumbo. Choose your protein for the kettle and watch it transformed before your eyes with butter, brandy, wine and rich spices into a thick, saucy concoction to be served over white rice, including an optional handful of snow crab added at the end. Try the beignets for dessert, with salted caramel and bourbon ice cream.
With all these options, you don’t need to go to New Orleans to “laissez les bons temps rouler” – let the good times roll at one of these great Cajun seafood joints soon!
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