The United States is home to a plethora of regional cuisines. The various culinary traditions take their influence not only from the availability of locally-grown produce and other foods from farmers, but also from the cultures of the people who have settled in an area over the centuries. The American South, for instance, is home to several traditional cooking styles. (Here are 20 iconic Southern foods every American should try.)
Lowcountry and Gullah cuisines on the South Carolina and Georgia coasts both have roots in West African cooking traditions, while Lowcountry also incorporates English, French, and Caribbean influences. In Louisiana, Cajun food is derived from the palates of French colonists who settled in Canada before traveling South, while Creole is a blend of French, Native American, West African, and Spanish cuisines. And in all of these American culinary traditions, seafood plays a major role.
To compile a list of 20 great Southern seafood dishes, 24/7 Tempo consulted numerous books and websites dedicated to seafood and Southern food. In recommending restaurants that serve the dishes in question, we consulted reviews and rankings on websites including Southern Living, Garden & Gun, Eater, and Time Out. While we strived for geographical diversity in our choice of restaurants, half of our choices turned out to be in New Orleans or elsewhere in Louisiana because so many iconic Southern seafood dishes come out of Cajun or Creole cuisine. Note that the images that follow don’t necessarily represent the dish as served at the recommended restaurant.
From fried catfish to crawfish étouffée, the seafood dishes of the South use fish, molluscs, and crustaceans that are traditionally found in the local region. Oysters and blue crab are big players along the mid-Atlantic coast, while the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast also offer conch, stone crabs, shrimp, and grouper. Crawfish are prominent in Cajun and Creole dishes, and frog legs are also popular in the South, especially in areas with French influence. (Take a look at the worst seafood to eat.)
Click here to see 20 great southern seafood dishes
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