By Amanda Smith
Updated March 05, 2014

What if we told you that you didn’t have to travel across the ocean to experience the culinary delights of Europe and Africa? Exciting flavors and enticing culture are closer to home than you may think. In honor of the iconic Fat Tuesday festivities this week, we’re taking World Flavor Wednesday down to the Louisiana bayou and serving up some traditional Cajun and Creole dishes.

(Kathryn Bell/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images)

New Orleans is well known for its music, architecture, cross-cultural heritage and various annual festivals. One of the city’s most notable traditions is Mardi Gras, a boisterous season of colorful parades, masquerade balls and king cake parties that dates back to French colonial times. The streets are painted with hues of purple, green and gold as locals and tourists alike partake in the raucous celebration that falls just before the sober weeks of fasting for Lent begin.

Fat Tuesday is aptly named, as Cajun and Creole food is not particularly known for its nutritive qualities. The food of New Orleans is among the most unique in the United States, drawing influences from Native American, Caribbean, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and African cuisine. While the terms Cajun and Creole are often used interchangeably, the two are not exactly synonymous. To put it quite simply, Creole cuisine is deemed “city food” and Cajun cuisine “country food.”

Either way you slice it, good Cajun and Creole recipes most often start with a roux, a mix of fat and flour used primarily as a thickener for stews and a base for sauces. We’ve compiled this list of recipes to help you earn your beads as you experience the finger-licking flavors of the Big Easy.