Viet-Cajun Seafood Boil

Difficulty Easy

A classic seafood boil transformed into Viet-Cajun goodness: Old Bay, Cajun spices, lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce, and ginger — plus, a spicy, garlicky butter sauce. One of life’s beautiful pleasures!

As much as I love a traditional seafood boil, I’ll admit — there are times when the flavor seems too meek and mild for my taste. Sometimes, I crave different. And spicy. And garlicky and pungent and flavorful!

That’s how a random google search introduced me to the amazing world of Viet-Cajun cuisine.

seafood boil on a tray

Viet-Cajun Food History

Did you know that Viet-Cajun food originates in the state of Texas? And that Texas has a sizable Vietnamese population? The largest in the US outside of California, in fact?

Did you also know that this group of new Americans arrived after the Immigration Act of 1965? And that they were harassed and intimidated for years? By the local KKK who destroyed their crab boats and burned crosses in their front yards?

Yup, neither did I. I had no idea that Viet Americans in Texas, enduring decades of hardship and racism, created a uniquely delicious expression of American food at all!

If you think about it, the Viet-Cajun flavor combo makes total sense. The American South and Vietnam are both seafood-loving, port-based locales. Mixing flavors from these two regions results in a harmonious, unbelievably delicious alliance. Cajun spices, Old Bay, lemongrass, fish sauce, scallions, ginger, and lots of garlic — oh yes, you know it’s going to be tasty!

Viet-Cajun food also contradicts the revisionist history I learned as a child. In my school textbooks, I read about America being a “Melting Pot.” Immigrants arrived and “melted” into an American cultural homogeneity. Back then, I didn’t question this one-sided narrative advanced by those in power. But now I see it for what it is: a dangerous and dehumanizing patriotism. Citizenship shouldn’t require cultural erasure. Or abandoning personal identity and ethnic heritage.

We only need to look to the crazy-delicious flavors of Viet-Cajun food to understand: our differences make life better. And produces some pretty tasty food! Embrace the richness and diversity of the American experience by throwing a Viet-Cajun Seafood Boil!

ingredients for seafood boil

A note: Viet-Cajun boils typically include fresh crawfish. We don’t have access to fresh crawfish here in Toronto so I adjusted Southern Living’s recipe accordingly. Enjoy!

How to Assemble a Seafood Boil:

I love seafood boils. They are extravagant meals that don’t require much cooking at all. Basically, you’re assembling layers in a pot. My advice: make sure to use a timer! Also, use the freshest ingredients you can find.

Make spicy garlic butter sauce: melt together ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes. Cover and set aside. (You don’t need the shallot, as pictured.)

Fill a large stockpot with 6 cups of water. Add garlic, lemongrass, ginger, fish sauce, Old Bay, and Cajun seasoning. Bring to a boil and simmer until flavors combine, about 5 minutes.

Add smoked sausages and potatoes. Boil for 8-10 minutes. (Sausages and potatoes take longer to cook than shrimp, clams, and corn.)

Add shrimp, clams, and corn. Boil until clams open and shrimp turn pink, another 4-5 minutes. Use a mesh strainer and transfer to a tray. Leave behind the broth and aromatics (garlic, lemongrass, ginger).

Add lobsters and boil until bright red and cooked through. Transfer lobsters to tray, scatter with scallions, and enjoy!

viet-cajun seafood boil elements

Viet-Cajun Seafood Boil

The Subversive Table | Lis Lam
A classic seafood boil transformed by all the elements of Viet-Cajun goodness: Old Bay, Cajun spices, lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce, and ginger — plus, a spicy, garlicky butter sauce. One of life's beautiful pleasures!
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian, Viet-Cajun
Servings 4


  • Small saucepan
  • Large Stockpot
  • Mesh Strainer


Spicy Garlic Butter Sauce

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 head garlic (about 12 cloves) (minced)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (bruised and minced)
  • 2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 grinds freshly cracked pepper


  • 6 cups water
  • 4 stalks lemongrass (bruised and halved)
  • 2 heads garlic (halved)
  • 3-inch piece ginger (sliced)
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp Cajun/Creole seasoning
  • 2 lbs red potatoes
  • 4 smoked sausages (cut in chunks)
  • 3 lbs clams
  • 2 lbs shrimp (with heads and tails intact)
  • 4 ears corn (cut into thirds)
  • 4 1lb -1.5lb lobsters (make sure they are all the same weight for an even cook time)
  • 4 scallions (optional) (sliced thinly for garnish)


Make Spicy Garlic Butter Sauce:

  • In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic, lemongrass, cayenne, and salt. Simmer until softened and flavors combine, about 5 minutes.
    ingredients for spicy garlic butter sauce

Make Broth:

  • Add water, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, Cajun seasoning, and Old Bay into large stockpot. Bring to a boil and simmer until flavors combine, about 5 minutes. The broth should be flavorful and spicy, almost too salty.
    ingredients for viet-cajun seafood boil broth

Add ingredients:

  • Add potatoes and sausages. Cover and boil for 8-10 minutes, until potatoes are almost done. (The potatoes and sausages take longer to cook than clams, shrimp, and corn.)
  • Add clams, shrimp, and corn. Cover and boil until clams open and shrimp are pink and curled, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Using a mesh strainer, transfer potatoes, sausages, clams, shrimp, and corn to a tray. Leave behind broth and aromatics (garlic, ginger, lemongrass). Cover tray loosely with foil and set aside.
    seafood boil elements on tray: corn, sausage, clams, shrimp
  • Bring broth to a boil. When the broth is furiously simmering, add lobsters. Cover and boil until cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. The lobsters should be bright red. Transfer to tray with tongs, making sure to remove the foil first. Scatter with sliced green scallions.
  • Serve with Spicy Garlic Butter Sauce divided evenly into 4 ramekins. Also, serve the broth in small bowls for additional dipping. Enjoy!
    seafood boil on a tray


*I use N’wlins Cajun Seasoning, which contains salt.  Check the label of your cajun seasoning.  If it doesn’t include salt, taste the broth and adjust.  You can add more salt or fish sauce if necessary.  
Keyword Seafood Boil, Viet-Cajun
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

More Spicy Food Inspiration:

Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwiches
Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich on dark plate with jar of pickles and plate of fried chicken in background
Spicy Sichuan Chicken Stir Fry
hands holding bowl of spicy chicken stir fry at table
Budae Jjigae aka Korean Army Base Stew
budae jjigae ingredients in hot pot on table with plate of vegetables on the side
30 minutes, All Recipes, Asian, Dinner with Friends, Holiday, Main, Seafood


  1. Hi. I am planning to make this over the weekend but had a quick question. When tasting the broth for seasoning how salty should it taste? Is this like pasta water salty or less? Thank you for the recipe. I’m excited to try it.

  2. 5 stars
    Thanks For Sharing this Amazing Recipe. My Family Loved It. I will be sharing this Recipe with my Friends. Hope They will like it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating