I’ve noticed at maybe 3-4 mall food courts now that if there is a Cajun-Creole style restaurant, half the food is thinly veiled Chinese food and the place is run by Asians. They usually have generic Cajun-Creole foods like bourbon chicken, jambalaya, and some abomination they call red beans and rice, but next to that they have things like fried noodles and fried rice which looks exactly like the lo mein and fried rice the Chinese restaurant across the food court is selling. Don’t get me wrong, I love both styles of food (although not the quality you find in a food court), I’m just confused at the reoccurring mixture of the two.
So what I’m asking is if anyone else has encountered one of these odd Cajun-Creole/Chinese fusion places, and what possible explanations are there for this phenomenon.
Yeah, there was (is?) a place at The Main Place mall in Santa Ana that had ‘cajun’ food. Pretty much as described in the OP. I thought it was different from Chinese, but that may just be what I tended to order. The Hawaiian place down the food court was more Chinese than the Mardi Gras was. But the ‘Cajun’ food seemed to be ‘in the spirit’ of Chinese fast-food in that it was all in steam tables.
Incidentally, I bought some catfish nuggets at the market last week and deep fried them with ‘Cajun-syle’ fish fry. They were good.
I love the bourbon chicken from these places, so I did a little digging online. Kelly’s Cajun Grill seems to be the largest chain of these Cajun-style food court restaurants, and they are based in Coral Gables, Florida, near Miami. They have the only stand-alone restaurant I’ve ever seen there, as opposed to all the others in mall food courts, and the stand-alone features more menu choices – even sushi. I’ve been to that location, among others, but haven’t tried the sushi!
Anyway, the restaurant chain’s founder is Kelly Yeung, who judging by his name, is most likely ethnically Chinese. That could very well account for some of the Chinese-style dishes on the menu there. Yeung also owns Yeung’s Lotus Express, which sounds like an actual Chinese restaurant chain – perhaps they all get their ingredients from the same suppliers, and share recipes.
My favorite* Cajun cookbook, The Top 100 Cajun Recipes of all time, lists chicken liver, chicken gizzards and calf liver, in addition to ground beef in Dirty Rice (recipe by Mr. Teska Moreau, Marksville, Avoyelles Parish).
“Cajun” food in a mall court? I think I’ll pass.
:eek: Whoa! The Big Easy in Valley View Mall is actually one of the exact locations I was referring to. I’m going to school in Philly now, but Dallas is where my family lives. Back in my mallratting days, Valley View and Collin Creek were my two main malls. If I remember correctly, the Big Easy even has an employee stand outside the store giving out free taste samples of bourbon chicken and the like.
I’ve never been to a “Cajun” food place outside of the South that was any good. I’ve been to several “Soul” food places that, though very pricey, had completely bland and unmemorable food. (Non-Southerners will fall for anything.) There is a Chinese/Southern fried chicken place in South L.A. that’s not bad (and not in a mall). Maybe I’ve just had bad experiences.
Yeah, I just did a search and found this board. (For the Mall Cajun) We were tlaking about it. I saw the cajun joint run out of something, and the chinese place ran some stuff over. I mean I know its not real cajun having eaten down in the bayou and all, but still.
But they are successfull. The ones here have been there for many years.
Second – usually we call re-animated old threads like this “zombies” and they are sometimes discouraged. So expect some odd (to you – normal to us) comments at some point here.
I will add this new puzzlement (for lack of a better word). Here it is all these years later and its still the same situation at most of the mall food courts I know. You would think that by now someone would have started a chain of actual Cajun-style fast food given how popular its become. The closest I’ve come across is maybe Popeye’s but they are Cajun about the same way Taco Bell is Mexican.
It mentions “Cajun-themed Chinese restaurants” as though it were a common thing, but I can’t tell if that’s just an indirect way of referring only to the one chain (Kelly’s Cajun Grill) which That Guy mentioned above. In other words, is this really a generic thing or just the success of one particular business.
Five years after this thread, I recall this article from NYT, about the trend of Vietnamese immigrants starting Cajun restaurants. These aren’t mall fast food places, and it’s worth mentioning that while some have noted the similarity between Chinese and Cajun cuisine, I would say that Vietnamese and Cajun flavorings don’t have much in common.
The article also revealed a surprise to me. I’d always assumed that people in Vietnam must eat crawdads like crazy, because all the Vietnamese here are obsessed with them. But it says that actually crawdads are not commonly eaten in Vietnam, and apparently it’s a Cajun habit they latch onto when coming here. That doesn’t really explain why it every Viet in L.A. is crazy about crawdads, but maybe it spread from the South.
I’ve never heard of Kelly’s, but at my local mall, we had Cajun Cafe, which closed down 5 years ago at my mall but still exists in a couple malls in the general area. You can read a review of the Vernon Hills location here “If Panda Express and Popeye’s had a bastard love child, it might look something like this.” It was a mix of cajun and Chinese, just as the OP stated, and the only place I’ve ever had bourbon chicken, to my knowledge.
Actually even the malls themselves seem to be fading off. The few that survive are going away from the traditional food court to chain places (TGI Friday’s and the like) with outside and mall entrances. But there are some strong exceptions around here and there; more in the rural counties.