With crawfish season winding to an early end this year (warmer-than-normal temperatures have sent the overheated critters scurrying for the cool of their ponds' muddy walls), I seized the opportunity yesterday to enjoy what's likely to be my last bag of Viet-Cajun crawfish in 2011.
Crawfish season typically ends around the Fourth of July. While my friendly server at The Cajun Crawfish insisted the Rainier Valley restaurant will be stocking fresh Louisiana crawfish until October, the puny mudbugs suggested otherwise. The crawfish's petite portions of sweet meat were eclipsed by the sloppy, buttery, citrus-toned Cajun seasoning mix, thick as peanut sauce. Advertised as "crazy hot," the pasty spicing was appealing, but mild as a Hallmark card.
But what I loved about The Cajun Crawfish--one of two Seattle restaurants specializing in Viet-Cajun crawfish--was the French bread. Oddly, that's an accompaniment I haven't encountered in similar crawfish joints. The Boiling Crab, a Southern California-based chain that's largely responsible for the Viet-Cajun crawfish craze, doesn't serve bread: The only carbs on its menu--which is emulated by crawfish houses from Louisiana to Washington state--are potatoes and rice.
Other restaurants emphasize the Viet in Viet-Cajun, a culinary crossbreed rooted in the post-Vietnam War settlement of Vietnamese fishermen along the Gulf Coast. At those joints, crawfish lovers might add a side order of noodles.
Yet few add-ons make as much sense as French bread, a delicacy that defines Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches and Cajun po' boys. When I neglected to include a toasted loaf in my initial order, my server immediately corrected me: "Everyone really likes our bread," she said.
No wonder. The terrific bread isn't baked in-house, nor at the bakery across the street, but is locally sourced, according to my server. The soft, crusty baguette was the perfect implement for dredging through the garlicky sauce. With sauce, bread, and a bottle of beer, who needs crawfish anyhow?