Boudin. It’s a staple of life in Southwest Louisiana. Smoked boudin. Mild boudin. Shrimp boudin. Alligator boudin. Crawfish boudin. Hot boudin.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner and in between, locals hunger for it and tourists clammer to find it. And it’s not hard to find as just about every place–from gas stations to restaurants–has it.
To be completely honest, I hadn’t heard of boudin (pronounced “boodan” or “boodeh”) until I touched down in Lake Charles, La., a few weeks back. Then I was constantly hearing about it, learning about it, smelling and tasting it. What’s in it, how it’s made, where to find it as well as its history and its place in the past and current culture. (I’m told that it’s poplar among hunters because it can be easily transported and eaten without need of utensils and condiments.)
A traditional boudin is a combination of pork, liver, long grain rice and spices that are stuffed in a casing and resembles a link of sausage. Generally, it’s either hand held and squeezed out of the casing or scooped out with a fork or spoon. (I was told the casing is not eaten but on the Internet I came upon a great debate among those who eat the casing and those who don’t.) Just how much liver and rice are in this Southwest Louisiana delicacy seems to depend on who’s preparing it.
In these parts, boudin is just about everywhere. Over at Hackett’s Cajun Kitchen on Highway 14 in Lake Charles five variations of boudin are available as a plate lunch or by the pound ($3.29 to $4.40 per pound depending on variety). Charlie Hackett, whose office is one of the lunch tables in the corner of the small eatery/store, opened the shop in 1988 and his boudin was voted one of the area’s best by the The Times and Lagniappe. At Brown’s Neighborhood Market on Gulf Highway, one can pick up groceries, including roux mix, stuffed quail, green onion sausage, 20 different kinds of rice and yes, freshly prepared boudin links and boudin balls. And over at the Seafood Palace on Enterprise Boulevard in Lake Charles, boudin balls is one of 12 appetizers the restaurant features along with its crawfish pies, crab pistolettes and fried gator.
I found the smoked boudin, seafood boudin and traditional boudin that I sampled to be flavorful–but not being a big fan of liver I didn’t fall in love with it. However, plenty of others do. The group of 10 or so travel writers I was with couldn’t seem to get enough of it. And the locals are so enamored of this regional specialty–which I’m told you’ll only find in this corner of the state–that it’s available in restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores and cafes. There’s even a Boudin Cook-off in Lafayette, La., in October.
While dining at downtown Lake Charles’ Blue Duck Grill where chef/owner Briant Smith cooks up New Orleans Creole specialties one minute and sings and plays a mean guitar the next, American Press food columnist Eric Cormier explained that boudin has Spanish and Cajun influences and has “become a big part of the diet here.”
Just before we consumed a multi-course meal paired with wines, Smith shared that beer is the best beverage to accompany boudin.
In a full-color brochure highlighting the boudin trail put out by the Lake Charles Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau, 17 boudin purveyors in eight Southwest Louisiana cities (DeQuincy, Sulphur, Westlake, Vinton, Moss Bluff, Lake Charles, Iowa and Camera Parish) are listed.
For more information on feasting on boudin in Lake Charles, visit:
Hackett’s Cajun Kitchen, www.hacketscajunkitchen.com or (337) 474-3731
Blue Duck Grill, www.blueduckcafe.com or (337) 721-1967
Brown’s Neighborhood Market, call (337) 905-3013
Seafood Palace, (337) 433-9293
For a copy of the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail brochure or for more information on the Lake Charles area, visit www.VisitLakeCharles.org or call 1-800-456-SWLA.