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Cajun

A melange of French and southern American cuisine, influenced by the African ingredients used by the local, French–descended Creoles of Louisiana. Cajuns are descended from the French Acadians (hence ‘cajun’), driven from Canada when the territory was ceded to the English in the early 1700s. Generally hunters, fishers and trappers, the Acadians settled happily into the Louisiana bayou region. Cajun cuisine relies heavily on food from the bayous (swampy rivers), such as alligator, rabbit and, most importantly, crayfish, and is heavily spiced. Typical dishes include red beans and rice, gumbo, fish, chicken and shrimp dishes. An important element in Cajun cooking is the roux, a thick paste made of lard and flour cooked until almost burnt, essential in gumbo and other dishes. ‘Blackened’ and fiery food is thought to be typically Cajun, but while heavily seasoned it is not always fiery. The technique of blackening spiced meat by cooking it over high heat is not truly Cajun, but was popularized by New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme and has become a distinctive part of today’s Cajun cuisine.