Crawfish has always been a well-loved delicacy in Texas, but history credits its immense popularity to the meeting of two cultures that were victims of exile and immigration: the Vietnamese and Acadians. Through their cultural interactions, Viet-Cajun food was born. Today, people in the south still enjoy the savory dish, leading back to its historical roots.
Where it Started
The story starts in Louisiana, in a county named Acadiana, comprised of 22 parishes between the Texas state line and the Mississippi River, where Native Americans originally harvested crawfish. When the Acadians (now called Cajuns) came down to the area from Canada in the 18th century, they exchanged their Northwestern lobsters for the South’s smaller freshwater crustaceans.
A few years later, the same cultural transmission occurred in Houston when Vietnamese immigrants quickly took the local crawfish culture and adjusting the recipe to include the ingredients they were used to. Viet-style crawfish joints became a new norm in Houston.
The Growing Population
Meanwhile, many immigrants who did not continue the journey to Galveston or Kemah worked on water and set down their roots in a place now called Midtown, near Louisiana and Milam streets—a community then known as Little Saigon.
The Vietnamese immigration population has grown since then, doubling every decade between 1980 and 2000, and an increasing 26 percent in the 2000s. In 2017, more than 1.3 million people of Vietnamese heritage lived in the United States, accounting for 3 percent of the nation’s 44.5 million immigrants and representing the sixth-largest foreign-born group in the country.
After some time, the local Vietnamese community moved to the west side of town along bustling Bellaire Boulevard in the Asiatown district. Nowadays, Vietnamese restaurants are scattered across the Houston area. Even after 40 years since the first immigrants made their home in Houston, the traditional flavor and ingredients from the nearby Gulf still create one of Houston’s most delicious dishes: the Vietnamese-Cajun crawfish.
Rise of the Crawfish
Louisiana farms are the leading producers of crawfish, but it did not stop residents of the Pelican State from changing how they cooked these crustaceans. While the traditional way to cook them is by seasoning the water with salt, pepper, cayenne, and garlic—as per Cajun boils and recipes—Vietnamese crawfish are also seasoned after, topping it with a buttery mess of garlic, and spices like cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, paprika, ginger, and lemongrass.
This odd pairing used to be weird, but it soon became one of Houston’s most exemplary contributions to the world. Although crawfish are not indigenous to Vietnam, the unavoidable French influences that came with the country’s occupation are similar to what inspired the cuisine of the Gulf Coast. Added with a Cajun flair, the culinary merger was inevitable.
Nothing is stopping the Viet-Cajun crawfish craze in Texas, especially in Houston. To this day, people still travel across the country to experience the delicacy from and made by immigrants. Eating it may be a hot mess, but it’s a moment worth becoming messy for.
Crawfish Cafe is Houston’s best-selling crawfish restaurant. Based on our 9-flavor sauce, we have been leading the industry for some time. In 2013, we were voted the best crawfish in Houston because of our Viet-Cajun crawfish. Order now and have them delivered right to your door today.
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