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Crawfish - bits & bobs

1. There are over 30 varieties of crawfish, but just two of those supply the majority of Louisiana’s crawfish industry.

2. The crawfish is worth $120 million annually for Louisiana farmers, fisherman, food purveyors, and restaurateurs.

3. Crawfish are also known as “crawdads”, and “mudbugs”.


 

Mardi Gras 2018 is Tuesday, February 13th


Crawfish On the Bayou

Louisiana’s Favorite Shellfish

Louisiana crawfish boil
Crawfish Boil at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux's - Houma, Louisiana

Known for its tender, succulent white meat, often compared favorably to lobster, the crawfish, while found in various guises throughout the United States, is deeply anchored in the gastronomic memory and taste buds of Louisiana residents, and anyone who has ever tucked into a dish of these delightful “mudbugs”.

For Louisiana, the crawfish is a pearly white golden nugget worth $120 million annually. That said, of the 30 varieties of crawfish found in Louisiana’s swamps, waterways, and commercial crawfish ponds, only two, the red swamp crawfish, and the white river crawfish, make a significant financial impact in the lives of the state’s 2400 crawfish farmers and fisherman. These hardworking men and women tend 111, 000 acres of ponds and harvest crawfish from natural watercourses such as the Atchafalaya Basin (a natural wetland filter that unburdens the Mississippi River of much of its mineral deposits and nutrients before it travels the last few miles to the Gulf of Mexico).

The crawfish, a delicate shrimp-like freshwater crustacean (sometimes called crawdads) has found its way from the swamps, bayous, marshes, and commercial ponds to markets, dining rooms, and restaurants from Bayou La Batre, Louisiana to Brussels, Belgium. Chefs favor them for their flavor (delicate, and often sweet), silky texture, and appearance (generally somewhere between pure white and pinkish red).

Used in everything from the Louisiana classic Crawfish Étouffée, to po-boys, gumbo, jambalaya, and even burritos and pizza, it’s hard to pass through Louisiana (or anywhere on the U.S. Gulf Coast for that matter) without finding crawfish on the menu. It is one of the boot state’s most identifiable symbols. And you truly have not lived until you’ve tucked into a table full of these tasty crustaceans.

Crawfish Boils

While there are any number of ways to experience the crawfish, by far the most fun is a slice of Louisiana gluttony known as the crawfish boil. First, a table is covered with layers of newspaper. Next, a heap (often 10-20 pounds) of crawfish is piled in the center of the table. And, as if this weren’t enough food, the feast is augmented with half cobs of corn, hot sausage links, bread, and other edibles. Participants then dig in to the mass of food, discarding crawfish shells, heads, legs, and denuded corncobs on plates, and washing it all down with copious amounts of beer, water, or soft drinks.

How To Eat A Crawfish

While many people content themselves with just eating the crawfish tails (and tail meat is what you’ll get when you order up a plate of Crawfish Étouffée) for those in the know, some of the best parts of the crawfish are the juice, meat, and “fat” in the head. To get at these you want to “suck the head”. If you’re a crawfish novice, there’s no shame (and plenty of advantage) to asking for local advice the first time you belly up to a crawfish boil. In the meantime these are the basic dance steps in eating a crawfish:

General Prep:

(based on the sources listed at the end of this article - and on personal experience given by various Louisiana cooks)
1. Pick a nice juicy one out of the pile.
2. Don’t look it in the eye, or give it a name.
3. Grasp it firmly in both hands (tail in one hand, and one claw in the other).
4. Gently pull and twist until the claw separates from the body.
5. Repeat with the other claw.
6. Set the claws aside.
7. Grasp the tail/head firmly in both hands (tail in one hand, and head in the other).
8. Gently twist and pull until the tail section separates from the head section.
9. Set the tail aside.

Sucking the Head:

(based on the sources listed at the end of this article - and on personal experience given by various Louisiana cooks)
1. Hold the head firmly in one hand and pucker your lips around the open end (not the one with the eyes and feelers) of the head section.
2. Tilt your head back and suck.

Eating the Tail:

(based on the sources listed at the end of this article - and on personal experience given by various Louisiana cooks)
1. Hold the tail section (shell side up) firmly in one hand.
2. Use your thumbs to twist and pull the shell away from the tail meat.
3. Dunk the meat in butter, and eat.

Eating the Claws:

(based on the sources listed at the end of this article - and on personal experience given by various Louisiana cooks)
1. Grasp one of the claws with one hand on the pincher, and one on the “leg”.
2. Separate them with a deft twist and pull.
3. Throw away the leg.
4. Next, bite the claw just above the pincher and remove the shell.
5. Pull out the meat, dunk in butter, and eat.
6. Repeat with the other claw.

For anyone who likes shellfish, or is curious about Gulf Coast or Cajun/Creole Cuisine, the Crawfish is a versatile, tasty, mostly forgiving choice, guaranteed to liven up any meal or party. Succulent and tender, it is good on its own, or in a sauce. But it’s best with friends and family crawfish boil style (gathered around a big table strewn with newspaper and loaded with crawfish, corn, and sausage. And, frankly, what it boils down to is, take them anyway you can get them.

Crawfish Festivals

For real mudbug aficionados, simply eating is not sufficient to express their glee at the existence of this heavenly crustacean. For that reason, a number of crawfish festivals have been launched along the Gulf Coast (and elsewhere). Witness the giant foam crawfish hats, backscratchers, boil spice packets, and eating contests.

Check out these sites for details of various Crawfish Extravaganzas:

(listed in alphabetical order)

Louisiana Crawfish Festival

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival

Kemah Crawfish Festival

Michael Arnone’s Crawfish Fest (in Augusta New Jersey

Mississippi Coast Coliseum Crawfish Festival

 

Sources (and External Links)

The author/editor is indebted to others for the content in this article. While the final product on this page is ours, and we claim full ownership and responsibility for same, what you read here is based on our research which led us to the following sources of information:

1. Louisiana Crawfish Company -

2. eHow (dot com) - How to Eat Boiled Crawfish; posted by brainiac

3. eHow ( dot com) - How to Suck the Head of a Crawfish; Amy Lukavics

4. Houston Press (dot com) - How to Eat Crawfish (video); posted by Katharine Shilcutt; March 14, 2012

5. Southern Living (dot com) - How To Eat Boiled Crawfish; Illustration: Ryan Kelly, Article: Valerie Luesse

6. Google (Books) - Moon New Orleans: Including Cajun country and the River Road Plantations, The Celebrated Crawfish; Andrew Collins; Avalon travel Publishing, 2007, pg. 186

7. U.S. Government Crawfish Distribution Maps -

8. Louisiana Crawfish Festival -

9. Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival -

10. Kemah Crawfish Festival -

11. Michael Arnone’s Crawfish Fest (in Augusta New Jersey) -

12. Mississippi Coast Coliseum Crawfish Festival -