Cajun-inspired seafood turns up the heat in Saigon. By Chris Mueller. Photos by Jonny Edbrooke.
It doesn’t take long for the spices to get to work. We’re dripping sweat, trying not to wipe the perspiration from our brows with our sauce-covered fingers. But eating seafood — especially Cajun style — should be messy, and this lives up to expectations.
The Cajun Cua Seafood Restaurant (cua means crab) started when Viet Kieu owners Mison Do and Danny Tran had a craving for some good California-style Cajun seafood. While Cajun food originates from Louisiana and Tran says he is emulating Californian seafood joints, this combination is one of the few western food imports that seems likey to be a sure-fire success with all types of locals and expats.
The menu is simple and small, with the highlight being the Cajun Combo Bag, which comes in two sizes: one kilo (VND 500,000) and half kilo (VND 300,000). The kilo bag includes two blue swimmer crabs and the half kilo has one. The rest of the weight is made up of tiger prawns and clams. Each bag is also filled with sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, and sausages, none of which count against the total weight. The whole thing is seasoned with one of three choices of sauces: Cajun, butter garlic or steamed with beer. We opt for the Cajun and take it medium-spicy, which was just enough to get us sweating without becoming painful. I like spicy food, but I imagine hot would be too much for many.
In true Cajun fashion, the bag is poured over a white paper table cover and we eat with our hands, washing everything down with cold Tigers (VND 30,000).
If the seafood isn’t enough, there are also some simple yet tasty sides, including a plate of six Fine de Claire oysters (VND 90,000) and Cajun french fries (VND 40,000). The typical fries were livened up by the imported spices, while the oysters — fresh and raw — were a perfect way to cool the mouth. Or if you want something truly special, they have live Canadian lobsters (VND 1,250,000 each).
Right now there is only one location, a Vietnamese-style quan on Ly Tu Trong that tends to get rowdy as the night goes on. A second location in either District 2 or Phu My Hung is also in the works. Cajun Cua isn’t designed for fine dining, but what it lacks in décor it more than makes up for with food. After all, what could be better than seafood and beer?