If you’ve ever been to a Boiling Crab, Kicking Crab, The Crab Shack or any similar restaurants, you’re probably pretty familiar with the giant mess that is a cajun seafood boil. Funnily enough, despite being so heavily marketed as a Southern, Louisiana cuisine, these seafood shacks are very closely tied to Vietnamese American families. An influx of refugees ended up in the Southern states post-war. The social, hands-on casual style of the seafood boil is something that resonates quite strongly with the Vietnamese. We’re all about any type of finger food that you can slowly work through with a beer at your side surrounded by friends.
Ironically, I had no interest in Boiling Crab until college. (Too many shrimp heads, which baby Jeannie found gross). But then I tried it and went through a food phase where it was all I wanted every time I ate out. Unfortunately, the neighborhood I live in now doesn’t have a convenient one around for miles. Not even one close enough to deliver. So I had to make do. While this isn’t perfect, the recipe’s close enough to hit the spot!
- 1lb Shrimp shell-on
- 1 Potato
- 1 corn (I use the sweet frozen ones)
- 1 lemon
- 1 head garlic, minced
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
- 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
- 1 teaspoon red curry
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- A little bit of louisiana hot sauce if you want it spicier. You can also just add more cayenne pepper.
1. Bring pot of water to boil.
2. Throw potatoes in for 10 minutes.
3. Add corn and a couple minutes later, shrimp.
4. Once shrimp turns pink, immediately pour whole pot out into a strainer. If you overcook the shrimp, it gets really hard to peel.
5. Add butter and garlic to pot.
6. Once the butter is all melted and the garlic has gotten soft, mix in all your spices.
8. Add extra seasoning to taste.
9. Combine shrimp, potato and corn in a big bowl with the sauce.
10. Shake it up and eat!
One of, if not the first place that pops when you yelp SF is Brenda’s Soul Food. It doesn’t matter how far out you are, Brenda’s will pop up. All those Southern Cajun flavors…it’s exactly what comes to mind when you picture comfort food. It’s also crazy popular. So we knew what we were getting ourselves into trying to get a table during peak Sunday brunch hours. Brenda’s isn’t exactly located in the most upscale part of town. There’s not a whole lot else on the street it’s on. Luckily, all that space comes in handy because the line to get seated will fill the whole damn block.
Luckily, Brenda’s bought the small space next door and converted it into a small cafe, Libby Jane. You can get some of their staples (like their gumbo) to-go if you’re in a rush for a quick bite. Or if you’re just killing time until your table’s ready (like us), you can grab a seat at the counter and sip on coffee for an hour and half. They keep track of who’s chilling in there so no worries about losing your spot.
The restaurant itself is pretty snug. They’re definitely pushing max capacity. The ceiling’s are high and covered with plenty of art with that New Orleans vibe. It’s loud. Waiters are squeezing through tables with more people than they can hold. The air smells like butter and cheese and comfort. There was only three of us total, but we’d been waiting for a while and may have ordered a wee bit too much.
The shrimp & grits were probably my favorite dish of the day. Tangy, salty, creamy, cheesy. It’s a hearty dish that packs a kick. This was the flavor I was expecting from the crawfish beignets. While I had probably been the most excited about those, they were honestly a little too….fishy(?) for me and not enough tomato-y cajun goodness. The texture of the dough outside was wonderful though. The gumbo and fried catfish benedict were both solid choices as well. Though nothing mind-blowing, I thoroughly enjoyed both.
So worth the wait? Ehhhh. But go on an off-peak hour and Brenda’s is definitely worth it.