New Orleans – Six great dishes

Dear Readers,

When not writing my fictional series, The Adventure of Tiffany & Mrs Mac, I’m a travel writer with most of my stories published by Nine (that’s Nine Publishing – the TV channel – which happened to buy Fairfax’s stable of newspapers a few years ago).

One destination I’d go back to in a heartbeat is New Orleans. There’s something about this city on the bend of the Mississippi River, that just does it for me; it’s the music, the fun (it’s party central most nights of the week in Bourbon Street), and the food. They have some fantastic fare down there in Louisiana. One things for sure, I’d rather not go back in summer. When I was there in June 2022 it was hot – it sizzled at 38 degrees just about every day, and the blistering summer months were yet to come. I think I’d go back in their “fall”, our spring.

Here’s a taste of some of the famous dishes – it’s a story that was published in 2023.


Seafood gumbo

A stew with tons of flavour – and an assortment of ingredients – gumbo is the official state cuisine of Louisiana. It’s a marriage of West African stew and French bouillabaisse; the African slaves who worked the cotton fields used meat, and the French favoured seafood. Gumbo dishes start with a roux (a base of flour and oil) and while the dish can have chicken, sausage and seafood – and even squirrel, back in the day – what ties it together is ochre. A good gumbo also needs the “holy trinity” of Cajun cuisine – onion, green capsicum and celery. The Gumbo Shop has a wide choice. See


BeignetsAmericans do love their coffee and doughnuts and when you’re in New Orleans the sweet breakfast treat is beignets. Pronounced “ben-yay”, these little square-shaped parcels of fried dough dusted with icing sugar came over from France in the 18th century. They’re best eaten hot, straight out of the fryer. While there are savoury versions, the sweet ones made from yeast, milk, sugar, flour and butter are the favourites. They are sold in threes for under $US5 a pop. Naturally, there’s a Beignet festival, held in September. Grab these snacks at the super-popular Cafe du Monde or Cafe Beignet. See



Similar to yabbies, crawfish have been found in the Louisiana bayous for centuries, although today they are commercially farmed. With varieties known as red or white swamp, they are the state’s official crustacean and are used in dishes including gumbo and in etouffee – a thick sauce served over rice. The big thing to do, especially in spring, is attend a crawfish “boil” where a mountain of succulent shellfish is eaten along with corn and potatoes. Like a prawn, peeling requires a bit of talent. And yes, crawfish are crawdads and are also called mudbugs. Head to Bevi Seafood for a canteen-style feast. See



These submarine-style sandwiches, complete with chips and beer, make a great casual dinner in New Orleans. The best po’boys use a baguette a little lighter and fluffier than normal with less flour and more water in the mix. Popular fillings are fried oysters, shrimp, roast beef, or soft-shell crab if you’re going fancy. Derived from the name Poor Boys, the sandwich was created in 1929 during the four-month streetcar strike, when strikers were served scraps of roast beef and gravy on bread. Mother’s Restaurant has huge portions and plenty of signed celebrity photographs adorning the walls. See

Fried Catfish

Fried catfish

Once considered a poor man’s meal, catfish is now a delicious staple on New Orleans menus. Its bad rap originated because the fish are “bottom feeders”, grazing for food at the bottom of swamps. Today the fish are farm-raised in the vast wetlands once used to grow cotton. The key to a good catfish is to soak it in milk (along with seasonings) for up to eight hours before coating in cornmeal and frying. Healthier grilled and baked options are also around, although the fired variety is the most popular. Katies restaurant serves it as part of huge platters. See
Bananas Foster 
The Court of Two Sisters

Having brunch is the thing to do in New Orleans where the meal can stretch for hours while a Jazz band plays. Start with a Bloody Mary or mimosa and move onto a buffet of crawfish, jambalaya, fried chicken and fish, gumbo, turtle soup with sherry and finish off with Bananas Foster, the classic dessert of sliced bananas, rum sauce and vanilla ice cream.  One of the best venues is The Court of Two Sisters with outdoor seating in the beautifully ornate and biggest courtyard in the French Quarter. Taste every Louisiana delicacy in one inexpensive (around $US33/$48) sitting every day. See

For my story on how to spend four days in New Orleans, please click this link to read my New Zealand Herald piece.


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