If you’re from New Orleans or anywhere in Louisiana for that matter and living in California people always want to take you to a “New Orleans” style restaurant seeking to provide you with a taste of home but when you get the food and make that face as if asking, “what the hell is this?” they think you are either crazy or picky.
Unbeknown to these friends is that what they believe are flavors of the South is nothing but somebody’s soup de jour in disguise.
For us folks from the Crescent City we can recognize an imposter a mile away; by smell and by sight. Case in point, a couple of weeks ago some of us went to a restaurant in Long Beach. The selections ran the gambit from a poyboy sandwich, shrimp or sausage to gumbo and jumbalaya. Recently I had bought a shrimp poyboy from Popeye’s and it wasn’t the same and I know that everybody’s gumbo is not gumbo. After pondering the menu for sometime I decided to order a plate of Jambalaya. The photo on the menu looked mouth-watering, you saw the individual rice mingling with the pieces of sausage, shrimp, onion, green bell peppers, and bits of tomato. However, when the plate arrived it looked nothing like the photo and more like a tomato chicken stew with bits of sausage and shrimp. To be honest I didn’t really want to eat it but since it was there I decided to taste it. I picked up my fork and dug into this saucy gravy which in hindsight I don’t remember whether or not there was any rice because it was so creamy. After tasting it I will say that it wasn’t bad but it tasted nothing like jambalaya probably because it was more akin to chicken stew.
As I continued eating the plate of faux jambalaya I realized that somebody else at the table recognized that what was on my plate was not Jambalaya; it was as if she was waiting to test my New Orlean-ness… to see what kind of reaction I would have to what was clearly, “Chicken Stew.” When I gave her that look she laughed because she knew that I knew that we both knew; and then she told me a story of the time her and her dad had went to a restaurant and ordered a bowl of Gumbo and received some kind of seafood stew containing chili powder. For you Californians who might not know, chili powder IS NOT an ingredient of gumbo. We both laugh as I continued eating the faux jambalaya and it was then that I realized the only way that I would be able to eat a plate of authentic jambalaya was the hard way. And for the restaurant folks I have added this video in hopes that they can learn how to make jambalaya and how it is suppose to look when it is done.
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