Food for thought

Houston's best crawfish: A mudbug lover's insider secrets to making the most of the season

Houston's best crawfish: A mudbug lover's insider secrets

News_Marene Gustin_crawfish
Spring is when those tiny little crustaceans known as crawfish, crayfish, crawdads or mudbugs invade the city in force. Fruge Cajun Crawfish
Ragin Cajun, patio, crawfish
You'll find the usual suspects like Ragin’ Cajun where the giant bug on the roof promises buckets of boiled bugs and ice-cold beer. Ragin Cajun/Facebook
Crawfish Festival
For tens of thousands of folks, the only way to eat crawdads is at a boil festival. And there are plenty of them this time of year.
News_Marene Gustin_crawfish
Ragin Cajun, patio, crawfish
Crawfish Festival

Just got a press release stating spring in Houston is all about the Rodeo, the Azalea Trail, Daylight Savings and patio weather.

Yeah. And spring is also when everything I own is covered in dog hair except for my car, which is covered in green pollen.

And allergies run amuck. And . . .

But wait! There is something wonderful about springtime in Houston, or anywhere along the Gulf of Mexico.

Luckily spring is also when those tiny little crustaceans known as crawfish, crayfish, crawdads or mudbugs invade the city in force. Louisiana Foods imports anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 pounds of Cajun bugs a week this time of year. Even the local H-E-B sells bags of live bugs and packaged seasonings.

 Google Houston area crawfish festivals and you get about, oh, 140,000 results. We love our mudbugs. 

They turn up on restaurant menus all across town. From the usual suspects like Ragin Cajun where the giant bug on the roof promises buckets of boiled bugs and ice cold beer to the more unusual spots like the original Ninfa’s on Navigation where chef Alex Padilla turns out some creative spring creations with a Mexican twist.

Can you say crawfish and mussels in a salsa borracha, served with a Texas toast topped with crab meat salad? Or how about crawfish elote Loco Tostadas?

But for tens of thousands of folks the only way to eat crawdads is at a boil. And there are plenty of them this time of year.

Landry’s Seafood in The Woodlands is hosting its 17th annual Crawfish Festival April 14 where you can cruise the Waterway and munch all you can eat boiled crawfish (along with crawfish etouffee and fried crawfish tails).

Most festivals feature live entertainment, face painting, carnival rides and more to keep young and old entertained.

The Texas Crawfish and Music Festival in Old Town Spring has bugs and beards this year, with a special appearance by Uncle Si from A&E’s mega hit Duck Dynasty show on April 20.

Google Houston area crawfish festivals and you get about, oh, 140,000 results. We love our mudbugs so much that we attend crawfish festivals in Kemah, Pearland, Stafford and Tomball. Restaurants, nonprofits, towns and cities throw crawfish feasts featuring big boiling pots of bugs, corn on the cob and red potatoes. We just can’t get enough of these little red suckers this time of year.

That’s because there is just nothing quite like standing over a steaming pot of mudbugs and Cajun spices, salivating while waiting for the little lobster looking critters to turn bright red. Just the thought of serving them up, squeezing lemon and dumping even more spice onto them, throwing some butter on the corn and then tucking into the feast is a foodie tradition.

But if you don’t want the whole festival experience, with thousands of your closest friends surrounding you, you can throw your own crawfish boil in your own backyard. Invite a few friends and family and you’ve got a party sure to please.

DIY Crawfish

It’s actually easy. Got a 20-gallon pot? Even one of those turkey fryers will do.

Add water and bring to a boil. Add packaged Cajun spices. I like the Louisiana Foods mix but more and more grocers are selling premixed bags these days. Make sure your bugs are live and well washed. I cannot stress that enough. No one likes a gritty bug.

 Make sure your bugs are live and well washed. I cannot stress that enough. No one likes a gritty bug. 

Throw in some lemons, limes, quartered red potatoes and ears of fresh corn while you’re washing the mudbugs and when they’re ready, gently (Gently! Do not splash boiling water on yourself!) dump them into the pot. When the water returns to a boil, keep it going for another five minutes or so and then turn off the heat. The longer they stay in the water the spicier they get.

Take them out with a strainer and dump onto newspaper (wait, does anyone still read those anymore?) covered tables and you’ve got yourself a feast. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of iced down beer to go around and it’s laissez les bon temps rouler!

Oh, and have lots of paper napkins or paper towels on hand. Crawfish are messy little mud buggers.