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.
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” of immigrants. According to this theory, belonging required abandoning personal identity and cultural heritage. 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.
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 this summer!
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:
A seafood boil is cooking that’s not really cooking. 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!