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Where Y’Eat: Let’s Celebrate Louisiana Shrimp the Way We Do Crawfish

Ian McNulty
Boiled shrimp with fresh herbs.

We know there’s no comparison to Louisiana shrimp, at least not when they treated right. So why can’t they get any respect?

Why are prices at the dock so poor that some fishing families can’t make it worthwhile to harvest them?

The main issue is the flood of cheap imported shrimp, which is manifestly inferior. But that shrimp doesn’t buy itself. At least part of the problem is treating seafood like an interchangeable commodity, rather than an expression of place.

But then consider the crawfish, especially around a crawfish boil. This most humble mudbug becomes the basis for what’s practically a pageant of Louisiana pride.

What if we decided to give local shrimp the same kind of reverence?

Sure, the limited seasonality of crawfish contributes to their appeal. So does a season that coincides with the best weather, when the framework of a boil works like social magic.

Local shrimp can stoke the same kind of excitement and culinary gusto if we see it for what it really is – a valuable but vulnerable resource for our food culture.

The suppliers of the best shrimp you’ll ever eat are right down the road in Louisiana.

As with crawfish, the peak of the Louisiana shrimp experience is the boil. For this, you want larger shrimp, shell on. There is no substitute for local shrimp in this case, and the boil shows them in all their glory, folding in the social aspect that it gets to the best of Louisiana food.

Cooking shrimp takes nuance. It’s easy to overcook. Mastering it should be a mark of pride.

Matters of seasoning, sides and beverage pairings, such a compulsion for crawfish hounds, apply just as much to the craft and pursuit of boiled shrimp.

When you are up to your elbows in this ritual — so tied to the landscape and lifestyle that make Louisiana so rewarding, despite its many challenges — you don’t need to make much of a case about local sourcing and supporting your neighbors. You’re already doing it. You just need to keep digging in.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.