Boudin For A Day
South Louisiana’s Boudin Cookoff takes a day to celebrate a regional specialty.
by Erin Z. Bass
If you’re looking for boudin paradise, travel no further than South Louisiana. Sure, the region’s known for its crawfish, gumbo and etouffees, but a lesser known delicacy that comes stuffed in a sausage casing represents Cajun cooking at its best. Defined as a mixture of cooked rice, meat, onions, green onions and seasonings that is pulverized in a meat grinder and then stuffed into a sausage casing, a link of boudin is the snack of choice in the region. You can find it at gas stations, mom and pop restaurants, meat markets, the grocery store. Boudin is great with eggs for breakfast, as a side dish or with the stuffing taken out and formed into a ball and then fried. And now, once a year, this regional specialty gets its own day to celebrate.
Lafayette, Louisiana’s, third-annual Boudin Cookoff took place October 16 this year. Twenty-one of the area’s top boudin shops (one from as far as Pensacola, Florida) came out to Parc Sans Souci with their steamers and fryers, vying for the title of “Boudin Master.” For 50 cents a taste, attendees had the opportunity to try 52 different varieties of traditional steamed, smoked and grilled boudin, as well as more creative takes, like bacon-wrapped boudin, boudin beignets (pictured) and pepper jack and jalapeno stuffed fried boudin balls. Some booths even offered a little lagniappe (defined as “something extra” in Cajun country) in the form of free cracklins and tastes of their different varieties of sausage.
At 11:30 a.m., the Boudin Eating Contest kicked off, with some contestants returning from last year and a few new ones aiming to beat the 7 pounds consumed in 26 minutes record. Participants had to eat six links of boudin, including the casing, and keep it all down. (Tales of last year’s contestant whose boudin came back up at the final hour quickly spread through the front row of the crowd.) Jeff Larcade, who works for the city’s Preservation Alliance, emerged victorious and made the process of consuming that much boudin look easy. After coming in third the first year and second last year, he’s probably been practicing. Also impressive was second-place winner her highness “Queen Nom Nom,” who downed all that boudin without a slip of her crown.
Back to tasting, whispers of T-Boy’s jalapeno boudin spread through the crowd and we knew we had to locate the Mamou shop’s booth. Bypassing their regular boudin and boudin balls, we went straight for the jalapeno and, boy, was it good. Not spicy, but bursting with fresh jalapeno flavor, it was no surprise to find out later that T-Boy’s won a People’s Choice Award. Word was also starting to spread about Chops in Broussard’s boudin-stuffed beignets. We were skeptical at first, but this is one of the best things we’ve ever tasted. The combination of spicy boudin filling and sweetness of the beignet dough and powdered sugar was heavenly. Chop’s was also rewarded for their boudin efforts, winning second place in the “unlinked” category. (After a hopeful call to the shop, we found out the beignets were made only for the cookoff and aren’t served anywhere else.)
Here are the rest of the winners. Until next year’s cookoff, pilgrimages to their respective locations will have to suffice for that boudin fix. Visit www.boudinlink.com for more information on The Cajun Boudin Trail and a map of locations. For more photos from the cookoff, click here.
First place: NuNu’s in Youngsville/Milton
Second place: Best Stop in Scott
Third place: Early’s Supermarket in Scott
First place: The Sausage Link in Sulphur for fried, bacon-wrapped smoked boudin
Second place: Early’s in Scott for smoked boudin
Third place: Billeaud’s in Broussard for crawfish boudin
First place: NuNu’s in Youngsville/Milton for boudin-stuffed bellpepper topped with cheese
Second place: Chops in Broussard for boudin-stuffed beignet
Third place: Johnson’s Boucaniere in Lafayette for pepper jack and jalapeno-stuffed fried boudin ball
First place: NuNu’s in Youngsville/Milton
Second place: T-Boy’s in Mamou