Editor’s note: The Acadiana region of Louisiana is made up of 22 parishes, mostly in the southern part of the state. At the heart of Cajun Country is Lafayette, where we set up “camp” to explore the surrounding towns in search of boudin. Here’s our report.
Mr. Wally Johnson doesn’t know why he spelled “TO-DAY” with a dash, but he did and it stuck.
The iconic red and white sign sways in the breeze, but it wasn’t the first sign Mr. Johnson painted. The first one wore out and he couldn’t bear to toss it, so it hangs above the pot that holds the Cajun specialty inside Johnson’s Boucaniere in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Boudin (pronounced boo-DAN) is a big deal in Cajun Country and in other rural parts of Southern Louisiana. Calvin Trillin and others have written about it. Websites are dedicated to it, including the Southern Boudin Trail, a documentary project from the Southern Foodways Alliance, and Boudin Link, a letter-grade ratings guide to dozens of boudin outlets.
A riff on the rural French sausages boudin noir (with pig’s blood) and boudin blanc (without), Cajun boudin is even more countrified.
To stretch the precious pork further, Acadians add rice to their boudin, making it even whiter than boudin blanc. It makes total sense. The swampy wetlands of Southern Louisiana are rife with rice fields.
Boudin recipes are a point of pride and closely guarded secrets. They vary from gas stations to meat markets (where most boudin is sold) to restaurants. Ask any local and they’ll tell you where to get the best boudin — and it’s unlikely you’ll get the same answer twice.
Most recipes are some variation of pork (usually braised shoulder meat), most times enriched with pork liver, but not always, rice, onions (generally yellow onions and sometimes scallions), red and black pepper, sometimes garlic powder, and sometimes parsley.
The soft, squishy sausage is sold by the link, but priced by the pound. Generally a link is between $1.50 and $2.00.
It’s wrapped in paper and usually eaten as a to-go breakfast or snack somewhere between the counter and the parking lot. Boudin is an original slow, fast food.
Poche’s Meat Market sits along a stretch of highway north of I-10 and the town of Breaux Bridge, about 15 minutes east of Lafayette.
Poche’s boudin simmers on low in big aluminum stockpots. It’s rice and spice heavy with plenty of moisture.
The recipe for Wally Johnson’s boudin has been in his family long before 1937, the year Johnson’s Grocery opened in Eunice, about 40 miles northwest of Lafayette.
The grocery closed in 2005, but three years later the family opened a smokehouse restaurant in Lafayette that continues to serve the family boudin, as well as other Cajun and BBQ specialties.
After 75 years of practice, the Johnson family has perfected the porky link. Balanced between pork, rice, and spice, it’s neither too wet, nor too dry — a fine specimen.
Back in Breaux Bridge, Charlie-T Specialty Meats steams boudin in a rice cooker on the counter behind the cash register.
The natural casing has plenty of snap, and the flavor is heavy on onion and light on pepper. Ask at the Breaux Bridge Visitor’s Center where to get house made boudin, and Charlie-T is on the short list.
Once upon a time, every gas station made their own, but nowadays, most gas stations buy their boudin from meat markets like Poche’s and others.
Rental cabins on the edge of Breaux Bridge may seem like an odd place to find great homemade boudin. Bayou Boudin & Cracklin, the little store in front of Bayou Cabins used to be a cafe.
No longer a full service restaurant, Bayou Boudin & Cracklin still serves up a mess of Cajun specialties, including boudin.
Cut into pieces and flavored with a good dose of liver and pepper, this boudin is thick and rich, best washed down with a glug of homemade root beer.
Don’s Specialty Meats opened in Carencro in 1993, just a few minutes north of Lafayette, and opened a second location in 2005 in Scott, on the northwestern edge of Lafayette. Don’s boudin, a favorite of the Buchanan Lofts innkeeper in downtown Lafayette, sports more meat than rice, with a subtle but building pepper kick.
You can throw a rock in any direction in Cajun Country and likely hit a link of boudin. Most of them will be good.
These five — Johnson’s, Poche’s, Charlie-T, Bayou Boudin & Cracklin, and Don’s — are some of the best.
Is it crazy to build a trip around a boudin hunt? We don’t think so. In fact, we ran into a couple from Houston on the same mission. But if it is, call us nuts. And happily stuffed.
Where to stay:
403 South Buchanan Street, Lafayette, LA
Where to eat boudin:
1111 Saint John Street, Lafayette, LA
Poche’s Meat Market
3015 Main Highway A, Breaux Bridge, LA
Charlie-T Specialty Meat
530 Berard Street, Breaux Bridge, LA
Bayou Boudin & Cracklin’
100 W. Mills Avenue, Breaux Bridge, LA
Don’s Specialty Meats
730 I 10 S Frontage Rd Scott, LA