In New Orleans, restaurants use a range of wonderfully aromatic seasonings to prepare delicious Creole and Cajun dishes. As you stroll Bourbon Street, your nose is bound to notice enticing wafts of boiled crawdads, etouffee, beignet and jambalaya. You might think that Cajun and Creole cuisine is the same, but they're not.
Creole vs. Cajun cuisine
Long-ago immigrants to Louisiana brought the Creole and Cajun food sensibilities that we love in New Orleans restaurants today. Old World and New World flavors permeate menus throughout the French Quarter and the rest of New Orleans. Strong African and Native American influences can be tasted throughout Cajun and Creole cuisine. It's all quite tasty, but Southerners can tell the difference with their eyes closed.
In the case of Cajun cookery, the flavoring traditions were brought to the Crescent City by Canadian-French immigrants who had been forcibly relocated to the United States by the British. These Acadian-influenced flavors feature red spices such as cayenne and paprika along with the occasional pinch of oregano as a green herbal accent. Cajun cookery tends to lean heavily toward ultra pungent spices that were at one time used to preserve meat without refrigeration. An authentic Cajun kitchen relies on three pots: one pot for the rice, one container for the vegetables and one container for the main dish.
Creole flavor, on the other hand, combines Italian, Irish, European and West African influences with an aromatic emphasis on wild and garden-grown herbs such as thyme, oregano, bay leaf, paprika, rosemary, garlic, and parsley. Many Creole dishes include tomatoes, celery, and onion. Authentic Cajun cuisine never puts a tomato on the plate. In fact, ask someone who owns or works at New Orleans restaurants, and they will tell you the way to know if a dish is Cajun or Creole is to check for tomatoes. If it has them, it's Creole. Black pepper features predominantly in both Cajun and Creole cuisine. Some consider Creole cuisine to be more refined of the two, but that's a matter of personal taste, explains Spiceography magazine.
Jambalaya: Creole or Cajun?
A popular choice at New Orleans restaurants is Jambalaya. Some places serve jambalaya Cajun style; others dish up steaming bowls of jambalaya made the Creole way. Both are delicious, but there are a few simple differences.
Cajun jambalaya is apt to include meat options that are available in low-lying swamps and outlying bayous. Duck, alligator, boar, crawfish and turtle are just some of the meats that might feature in Cajun jambalaya.
Creole jambalaya was invented in the French Quarter during the city’s boomtown years when NOLA was populated with immigrants from Spain and France. Some say Creole jambalaya was an attempt by Spanish immigrants to make paella with New World ingredients. Outrageously high import taxes on saffron precluded its use, so tomatoes were substituted for saffron.
If reading this has given you an appetite, head to the corner of Decatur and St. Phillip Street. There are some excellent New Orleans restaurants to choose from. Just remember that The Original French Market Restaurant and Bar is the place to be for Cajun and Creole food that satisfies.New Orleans Restaurants