“A sandwich on Valentine's Day? Well, why not – it's not all about romantic dinners; you may just want to stay in, watch a movie and eat something simple. The most romantic of sandwiches is the Oyster Po' Boy, a traditional New Orleans
dish which originated during the Depression when oysters cost as little as 5 cents a dozen and used to be fried and put into sandwiches.” – Mark Hix.
In my youth, I would have found it preposterous that someone would use
the terms “oyster” and “poor boy” in the same breath. Growing up in the rural hinterland, to me an oyster was a mysterious luxury that glamorous people ate in books and movies. Little did I know that oysters were a staple food of the
poor in many coastal locales. In the “Big Easy” – New Orleans – poor Cajuns ate oysters in their sandwiches because they couldn’t afford meat!
There are countless stories as to the origin of the term "po' boy". A popular
local theory claims that it was coined in a New Orleans restaurant owned by Benny and Clovis Martin, both former streetcar conductors. In 1929, during a four-month strike against the streetcar company, the Martin brothers served their former
colleagues free sandwiches. The Martins' restaurant workers jokingly referred to the strikers as "poor boys", and soon the sandwiches themselves took on the name. In Louisiana dialect, this was naturally shortened to "po' boy."
versions are served either hot or cold, and include fillings like fried shrimp, oysters, soft shell crab, crawfish and catfish. Non-seafood fillings include spicy sausages, fried chicken, roast beef and French fries. The last two are served with gravy. Fried
seafood po' boys are usually dressed with a remoulade (a mayonnaise-like sauce). A Louisiana style hot sauce is optional. Although New Orleans is known for its grand restaurants, more humble fare like the po' boy is very popular among the rank and
file. One of the quintessential New Orleans eateries is the po' boy shop, and along with their sandwiches these shops often offer seafood platters, red beans and rice, jambalaya and gumbo. There is fierce competition between po' boy shops,
and residents’ opinions as to their relative merits vary widely.
The recipe that follows is my interpretation of the “traditional” oyster po’ boy as made in Johnny’s Po-Boys, the world-famous establishment in the French
Quarter of New Orleans.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc
For the remoulade:
½ Cup tangy mayonnaise
¼ Cup celery, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. Picalilli relish
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 Tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tsp. Worcestershire sauce
4 Dashes Tabasco sauce
For the sandwiches:
2 Hoagie or hot dog rolls, split
2 Cups shucked oysters, drained (about 20 oysters)
2 Cups bread flour
Cup maize meal
1 Ripe tomato, sliced
1 Red onion, sliced
1 Tbsp. Creole seasoning (if you want to make it yourself, mix onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, thyme, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika
and salt, to taste)
1 Cup lettuce, shredded
Sunflower oil for frying
1 Tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1 Tsp. salt
- First make the remoulade. Blend the scallions, mayonnaise,
celery, parsley, Picalilli, vinegar, mustard, capers, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco in a food processor.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Next construct the po'boys. Mix the flour, maize meal,
Creole seasoning, pepper and salt.
- Dredge the oysters through the flour mixture. Shake off any excess flour, and rest the oysters on a plate.
- Fill a heavy-bottomed saucepan with oil to a depth of 4cm.
- Place over medium-high heat
until close to – but not at - smoking hot.
- Fry the oysters in 3 batches until golden and crispy, turning as they cook to ensure even colour, about 2 minutes.
- Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.
- Spread each side the rolls with
- Arrange alternate slices of tomato on the bottom of each roll.
- Divide the oysters between the rolls. Top with lettuce and serve.
“The minute you land in New Orleans, something
wet and dark leaps on you, and the only way to get it off you is to eat it off. That means beignets and crayfish bisque and jambalaya, it means shrimp remoulade, pecan pie, and red beans with rice, it means elegant pompano au papillote and raw oysters by the
dozen, it means grillades for breakfast, a po' boy at bedtime, and tubs of gumbo in between” – Tom Robbins.