Lake Charles, Louisiana
Have you ever imagined that a food could identify a culture? Lake Charles, located in southwestern Louisiana, is an interesting blend of a very relaxing, laid-back setting and lots of fun, adventurous things to do, but if you really want to get to know this region, begin with its food, especially boudin. Boudin is a Cajun sausage which can be made from pork, shrimp, crawfish or even alligator, and it can be smoked, grilled, baked or fried. Lake Charles is home of the southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail, a trail of locally owned markets and grocery stores located throughout Southwest Louisiana along Interstate 10 and Highway 90.
Boudin at LeBleu’s Landing in Sulphur
At the beginning of my culinary exploration, the locals told me of LeBleu’s Landing, a popular place in Sulphur, just outside Lake Charles, where they make their own boudin and actually show you how it’s done. Not only did I try the boudin, but also their boudin balls, which are made of the same meat and rice mixture but in a round shape which is deep fried. Yum! Completely decadent. I was delighted to find the boudin so surprisingly light. There’s much more rice in it than I expected, and the seasonings were very bright and delicious. And I had a side of cracklins – crispy, salty fried pork rinds. After eating, I enjoyed roaming through the store, looking at the Louisiana food products including mayhaw berry syrups, Cajun hot sauces, jambalaya mixes, crawfish boils and much more.
Billedeaux’s Cajun Kitchen in Lake Charles
Next on the list of recommended stops was Billedeaux’s Cajun Kitchen in Lake Charles. This popular restaurant is right off Highway 90, a perfect stop if you’re driving through town. I was told that Billedeaux’s is the place for smoked boudin, and the locals didn’t mislead me. The sausage’s smokiness was a fantastic complement to the spice and seasonings of its filling. Absolutely delicious! Some other menu items to sample are the boudin balls, the gumbo and the jambalaya, all of them south Louisiana staples and all of them delicious right here at Billedeaux’s. There was also a small refrigerated section of take-home foods, including the boudin.
Famous Foods doesn’t look remarkable from the outside, but inside you’ll find the winner of the 2011 “Boudin Wars,” a contest among local restaurants to determine who makes the best boudin. In addition to the boudin, which was as excellent as promised, Famous Foods is known among regular patrons as having some of the best cracklins around. These came in three flavours – regular, smoked and spicy. I didn’t dare try the spicy, but the regular flavour was delicious!
As I dined at these restaurants in search of my favourite boudin, I not only got to sample tasty food, but I also got to talk to the locals and truly understand how important food is for bringing together community and families. What a unique cultural experience!