There are many foods that are considered to be quintessentially New Orleanian, such as gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, crawfish ètouffèe. But it can be argued that one of its most famous and popular dish is none other than the humble po’boy.
Po’boys, or poor boys as they were originally called, were apparently created as a result of the 1929 streetcar strikes. The proprietors of Martin Brothers’ Coffee Stand and Restaurant, former streetcar conductors themselves, provided the striking operators with free sandwiches during the four-month strike. The strikers were affectionately referred to as poor boys, and with their southern drawl, the term po’boy was born.
Shrimp, oyster, catfish, roast beef and ham and cheese were among the first po’boy fillings. Even though these fillings are still traditional and much loved, everything evolves, and there are now many different kinds of po’boy fillings.
During a trip to New Orleans, we made a special effort to visit a small café that specialised in po’boys; there was no way that we were willing to miss out on eating a traditional po’boy from its birthplace.
I was actually surprised to see over fifty different kinds of fillings, from the very pedestrian to the eye-boggling, what on earth were you thinking variety. I was happy with a traditional shrimp po’boy. A girlfriend chose the roast beef and gravy version. Now you have to remember that like a lot of other southern foods, po’boys can come dressed or not dressed. Dressed po’boys have all the fixings, and as a result, tend to be quite a bit more messy… as she found out…
Recipe by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch from New New Orleans Cooking, which can be found here.
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 ½ pounds large shrimp (peeled and deveined)
- 3 tablespoons Essence (recipe follows)
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ¾ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
- 2 small French bread loaves (each about 10-inches long)
- 56g tablespoons melted butter
- ¼ cup mayonnaise (or aioli)
- 1 cup shredded lettuce (or baby spinach leaves)
- 1 large ripe beefsteak tomato (thinly sliced)
- Dill pickles (sliced, optional)
- Hot sauce (or chipotle sauce, optional)
- Potato chips (for serving, optional)
Emeril’s Essence (Creole Seasoning) Ingredients
- 2 ½ tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- Combine all Essence ingredients thoroughly in a bowl (yields 2/3 cup). Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large sauce pan or preheat a deep fryer to 182°C (360°F).
- Season the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of the Essence, ½ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the cayenne.
- In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour and cornmeal and season with the remaining 2 tablespoons of the Essence, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon cayenne.
- Dredge the shrimp in the seasoned flour mixture, coating the shrimp completely.
- Fry the shrimp in the hot oil, in batches if necessary, until golden brown, stirring constantly, about 4 minutes.
- Remove from the oil and drain on a paper-lined plate. Season with salt and hot sauce.
- Split the French bread loaves in half and brush both cut sides of the bread with some of the melted butter.
- Using a spatula, spread the mayonnaise on both sides of the bread, then sprinkle with hot sauce.
- Divide the shrimp evenly between the two sandwiches and garnish with the lettuce, tomato slices, sliced pickles and hot sauce, if desired. Serve with potato chips.