Crawfish, gumbo, and jambalaya may get all the glory when it comes to Acadian cuisine, but there is no more uniquely Cajun food than boudin. A simple food, boudin consists of cooked pork scraps, rice, onions, and seasoning stuffed into pig intestines. Nowadays, most places substitute pig intestines for artificial sausage casings, so the squeamish need not worry.
Boudin has a long history in Cajun culture, and can be traced as far back as the early 1800s, when French fur trapper Toussaint Charbonneau whipped up a batch of buffalo boudin for the famous exploring team Lewis and Clark. The boudin we know and love today is a result of poor Cajun families finding a use for the leftover scraps of pork and intestines after a boucherie (community hog slaughter). Boudin slowly evolved over the years, with each family refining and passing their secret recipes down to future generations.
One of the best things about boudin is that it’s a people’s food: simple, delicious, inexpensive, and portable. Sold by the link at convenience stores and local meat markets, and wrapped in thick white butchers paper, boudin is the Cajun man’s answer to the burrito. It’s the ultimate food for the Coonass who’s on the run. And Cajun’s don’t care where their boudin comes from either. Whether it’s from a fine restaurant (not likely), or the back of a gas station, all that matters is the end result. In a way, boudin is the ultimate in Cajun culinary meritocracy.
Boudin can be eaten in two ways: you can squeeze the boudin stuffing into your mouth with your fingers or teeth, or depending on the consistency of your link’s casing, you can bite into it like a sausage, casing and all. Either way, expect your hands end up greasy, so keep some napkins close by. And if you don’t have time for all dat mess, you can order up a batch of boudin balls, which are tiny rolled balls of boudin, deep fat fried, served piping hot. They’re like little Cajun donut holes, you can just pop them in your mouth.
Now fights have been known to break out over which boudin is the best. Cajun people defend their favorite links the same way most people defend their favorite football team. We usually tend to favor our home team and not some foreign store that’s 10 miles away. We also argue about all the different boudin qualities: spicy vs mild, crisp vs chewy casing, liver vs no liver, and the rice to meat ratio. Luckily, we’ve got an objective resources to help us decide. The Boudin Link, a comprehensive guide to the boudin of Acadiana, reviews and scores all of the major boudin outlets in Acadiana. Another great read is The Southern Boudin Trail, which contains several interviews with some of the area’s top boudiniers.
Unfortunately, decent boudin is almost impossible to get outside of Cajun country. Sure, some major grocery chains sell vacuum packed boudin, but trust me, it’s just not the same. Next time you’re home visiting your family, don’t forget to stop by your local neighborhood convenience store, and fill up an ice chest with your favorite links.