The Gulf Coast has a huge Vietnamese population dating back to the end of the Vietnam War. This video from the Southern Foodways Alliance documentary series explores the cuisines that came out of these combined traditions. Cajun and Vietnamese food have some common themes: They’re both spicy, both highlight seafood, and French influence is strong throughout. Vietnamese refugees used these shared traditions to put a twist on a truly American ingredient: crawfish. “Vietnamese crawfish started with Louisiana-style boiled crawfish,” says Robb Walsh, the author of The Hot Sauce Cookbook.
This delicious meal was born out of conflict and resilience. “We left with practically nothing, so what we took with us were recipes and our memories of food,” says Houston poet and teacher Bao-Long Chu. “Those are the things that tie us back to our homeland.” Vietnamese crawfish represent the fusing of these two cultures; immigrants made it their own with ingredients like lemongrass and ginger, and serve the cooked crawfish with garlic butter and spicy sauces. “It’s just miles hotter and spicier than typical cajun crawfish,” Walsh says. Watch the video above to learn more.