Sushi with crawfish in it? Cajun fried chicken with teriyaki sauce? These aren’t usually things that are eaten together here in Acadiana, but with the growing “Casian” trend, more people are seeing this unique food fusion pop up.
What makes the two culinary styles so great together? Look closely at the ingredients. Both Cajun and Asian food have roughly the same ingredients, including a heavy reliance on rice, seafood and noodles.
“Vietnamese immigrants began coming here in the decades after the Vietnam War,” Jay Steiner of Cajun Food Tours said.
Steiner cited Louisiana’s Catholic population, alongside our French-speaking nature, that would help to assimilate these other cultures to the “Cajun” way of life. In their own way, Steiner said the Vietnamese immigrants grew with the working classes of the area, farming rice the same way Louisiana’s workers farmed rice.
“Even with the crawfish processing plants, when they were starting to grow in the 70s and 80s, there were a lot of workers who were peeling those thousands of pounds of crawfish and packaging them. A lot of those workers were arrivals from South East Asia,” Steiner said.
Though unlike other integrations into cultures by immigrants, given the large population of Asians moving into the South Louisiana area, these peoples retained their own culture while picking up bits and pieces of the culture around them, according to Steiner.
The biggest difference, according to Steiner, comes from the way the ingredients are cooked. Cajun cooking relies heavily on a cast iron pot and quick cooking. Steiner said that for Cajuns, this leads to deeper layers of flavor. Asian cooking, on the other hand, may rely on a wok or a slow cooker to lock in their flavors, or even layering spices.
“The one constant in both food traditions is that layering of flavors. Nothing you eat has just one solid flavor.” Steiner said. “So it’s similar, but it’s how we do it.”
Steiner said the Cajun-Asian fusion has been a growing trend, with other non-Casian restaurants picking up the trend and offering fusions they normally wouldn’t offer. Though other established places are offering their own spin on the trend, Greyson’s Boiling Pot in Lafayette is one place that is a true Asian-Cajun blend all on its own.
Greyson’s Boiling Pot offers everything from traditional slow-cooked Pho all the way to boiled crawfish with their own unique seasoning blend on top. They’ve even created their own Casian fusion dishes, such as a Boudoin eggroll that’s dipped in a honey garlic sauce.
“Our crawfish is picking up.” Jenny Nguyen, a member of the Greyson’s team said, “We cook our crawfish a little different. We have our own seasoning that we kind of incorporate into it. There are some lemon pepper and garlic butter that goes on top. It goes well with it.”
This unique blend also extends to their shrimp and crab boil as well. Though Nguyen, a Vietnamese person herself, said while she didn’t feel Cajun-Asian was a fusion, she did say that the Vietnamese get a lot of their food from French culture. She echoed Steiner, saying that’s why similarities arise.
“We just kind of blend in. It’s our culture also,” Nguyen said. “Garlic, onions and all this goodness. We use the same things.”
Neither Cajun nor Asian influences make up the setting at Greyson’s Boiling Pot. Their scenery is modern and soothing. Complete with a well-stocked bar and a fish tank to greet you, Greyson’s Boiling Pot welcomes you in with appetizing smells and smiling faces.
Their menu speaks to the fusion found inside, offering dishes such as Cajun crawfish mac-and-cheese balls, boudin eggrolls, honey garlic chicken Vietnamese noodles and Bo Luc Luc, which is cubed filet mignon cooked medium rare and served with vegetables and rice.
Berry, who has worked at Greyson’s for five months cited that Pho, chicken wings and spring rolls are among their most popular items. She also said that the fusion element of the restaurant, along with the freshness of their ingredients, not only bring customers through the door but keeps them coming back.
“Say someone wants Pho, they’re going to come here. Say someone wants crawfish, they’re going to come here,” Berry said.