Mardi Gras — Fat Tuesday — falls on February 9 this year, and is celebrated in America most notably in Louisiana.
In my limited Mardi Gras experience, I’ve noticed that Louisianans like to dance to Cajun music, dress up and ride in Mardi Gras parades, catch beads, drink copious amounts of liquid refreshments, and eat crawfish.
I love seafood, but when I was presented with a heaping platter of boiled crawfish in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a few Mardi Gras celebrations ago, I was a little intimidated.
While crawfish look like little lobsters, they’re way too small to crack in the same way. So how do you eat them without making a fool of yourself in front of the locals?
If you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s what I was taught by a local expert (and it works!):
1. Pick up one fully boiled crawfish.
2. Twist off its tail.
3. Peel off a bit of shell towards the front of the tail.
4. Pinch the back of the tail shell till the meat is squeezed out.
5. Dip meat in remoulade sauce. (See below)
6. Eat, savor, enjoy.
7. Discard shell of consumed crawfish (preferably in some kind of container or on a spread out paper bag)
8. Repeat steps one through seven until you wave the flag of surrender (or your mound of discarded shells topples over).
9. Optional: Suck out the claws and heads of each crawfish. (This is for more hard-core crawfish lovers.)
And that’s it.
But when you say “Thanks for the crawfish!” in Louisiana, be sure to pronounce it “crawfish,” not “crayfish.” “Crawdads” is also acceptable. Or so I was told. All I know for sure is, they’re delicious, however you pronounce their name.
By the way, none of this new knowledge helped me master the Cajun two step, a deceptively difficult dance favored by many Louisianans, much to my bewilderment.
To make remoulade sauce:
Mix 3/4 cup mayonnaise with about four tsp. mustard (combo of Dijon and whole grain is good), 2 tsp. capers or chopped celery, 1 tsp. tarragon vinegar, 1/4 tsp. (or to taste) Tabasco sauce, one thinly sliced scallion, some chopped flat leaf parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Mix ingredients together and refrigerate for a while to meld flavors.
Travel Tip of the Day: People in Sweden are also crazy for crawfish, mostly imported frozen since Swedish crawfish are now quite rare, but that annual tradition usually happens in August, not at Mardi Gras time. The madcap Swedes like to throw crawfish parties, and if you’re invited to one, wear a silly hat for the occasion; you’ll fit right in. But when you’re there, call them “crayfish,” or, in Swedish, kräfta.