Red beans and rice has become a traditional Monday night meal in New Orleans. Learn more about how this dish became a favorite in Louisiana.
Red Beans and Rice History
Red beans and rice is a symbolic dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine which is traditionally made on Mondays with red beans, bell pepper, onion, celery, thyme, cayenne pepper, bay leaf, pork bones; typically leftovers from Sunday’s meal. All these are cooked together slowly in a pot and is served on top of rice. Sometimes other meats such as ham, sausage, often the Andouille, and Tasso ham are also used for this dish. They serve Red beans and rice on Mondays because it was an old practice that was followed. Hams are for Sundays and Red beans and rice were for Mondays to cleanse. There are also similar dishes common in Latin American cuisine which includes the moros y cristianos and gallo pinto.
Aside from being a traditional dish, Red beans and rice represents something much deeper for the people of Louisiana. The bean plant did originate from America but Oryza Sativa, commonly known as Asian rice, was actually native to West Africa. This plant was introduced to America when the African slaves were forced by the Spanish to move to Louisiana during the New World era. Since the crop was easy to grow in the harsh swamps of the state, it became an important main food source to both the African slaves and the Louisianans.
When there was scarcity of food, the well-known Louisiana dish became the primary food in most households due to its affordability. Although the dish may not seem nutritious, it is actually a good source of protein, iron and vitamin B, in spite of the starch content.
The dish became popular not only because it was affordable, as well as a means to cleanse after the previous day’s meal of pork and ham. Most women found that leaving the dish to simmer in the pot left them with time to do their Monday chores, such as washing the laundry and cleaning the house.
Good Cajun Food for Everyone
Today, Red beans and rice is not just for Mondays. This famous dish is also considered as a favorite during the Mardi Gras festival, football season and family reunions. You can even find local restaurants serving it as part of their main menu and many offer it as a Monday lunch special usually with a side order of either smoked sausage or a pork chop.
The dish is also known to be the favorite of jazz trumpeter and New Orleanian Louis Armstrong. He even signed his name “Red beans and rice-ly yours, Louis Armstrong”. Truly the Red beans and rice dish is very much part of the New Orleans identity.
To this day, there are different red beans and rice recipes and many were handed down from generation to generation. Almost everyone has their own variation of the dish that there is no single official way to make it. Should anyone claim that their recipe is authentic, they most probably used the recipe from South Louisiana but there definitly are many more recipes for this particular dish.