Crawfish Across the World

Louisianans like to think they've got the world on a string when it comes to crawfish, with small towns like Breaux Bridge laying claim to titles such as "Crawfish Capital of the World." But there are a few people in Nigeria and Sweden who might disagree.

In Nigeria, crawfish is referred to as "our beautiful curvy Nigerian lady" (top that compliment, Cajuns!) and is almost revered in its cuisine, especially to the south.

Crawfish -- or crayfish, as the crustacean is more popularly known there -- is smoked and ground into a fine powder that forms the base of many dishes and stews, including the iconic pepper soup. And while it's often eaten for its tail meat, the crayfish is more prized as a spice.

Ground crayfish is a very pungent spice, at that -- case in point, there are Internet message boards full of Nigerians asking how to rid their homes of "that Nigerian smell" or "that crayfish odor." Anyone who's boiled crawfish in their backyards knows exactly that scent, fishy and fierce and lingering for days.

But the Swedes have a different take on crawfish entirely.


Like Louisianans (and now many Texans), Swedes hold huge annual crawfish boils during their "season," which peaks in August. These grand affairs are called kräftskivas and aren't too different from our own drunken boils: buckets of alcohol are consumed as Swedes plow through the time-consuming and intricate process of removing the crawfish's meat from each little tail. Except that Swedish crawfish are cooked in salt water with dill as the main spice, then served cold.

If you want to experience at kräftskiva for yourself, IKEA is hosting its annual crawfish party in a few weeks, on August 19. At the IKEA kräftskiva, these dill-and-lemon-marinated mudbugs will be served on a massive buffet of other Swedish specialties -- think meatballs, lingonberries and plenty of potatoes -- for only $9.99 a person. Alas, no aquavit will be served, nor beer, but it's probably for the best. No one needs to go on a drunken shopping spree at IKEA, which is already regarded as the slippery slope of furniture stores.

And if you want to try Nigerian crawfish, just head to any place that serves pepper soup or egusi: Peppersoup Cafe and Suya Hut are two great options. And like our own Cajun-style crawfish, you'll need a beer and a few napkins to beat the heat from their crawfish dishes.

Of course, there's always the newest kid on the global block -- Vietnamese crawfish joints with dozens of flavorful boil options -- but, as John T. Edge wrote last year in the New York Times, that's a crawfish of a different color entirely.

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Katharine Shilcutt