Suck the Head and Pinch the Tail
It’s almost Mardi Gras time, and what better way to celebrate than a big ole crawfish boil (or crayfish, or crawdads, or mudbugs, or whatever you call them). These tiny, freshwater crustaceans are basically tiny lobsters, but that doesn’t stop them from perplexing people from outside Fat Tuesday’s homeland year after year. Suck the Head.
The truth is, getting the best, meatiest part of the crawfish is simple. But your still missing the truly flavorful part. Yes, sucking the head really does matter, and no, that doesn’t mean you are eating crawfish brains (first of all, you’re sort of sucking the body, not really the head and second of all, crawfish brains are about the size of a pin-head so you would absolutely not know if you were or not). If all this sucking and pinching and shell-peeling is just too much for you, feel free to order yourself a crawfish étouffée and sit at the kiddie table. For everyone else, it’s time that we master how to eat crawfish like a true cajun once and for all.
Sucking the Crawfish Head
Learn to suck the head and enjoy the sizzling spices from the crawfish boil.
From (how to peel crawfish) if you have achieved professional Cajun peeler status. This step is really more of a lifestyle choice than a step. It begins as mere human curiosity. It concerns the matter of head, and the desire to suck it. Generally speaking, those who try it once or twice and enjoy it, will continually engage in the act; fiendishly so. While the recurrent sound of slurping may be distracting to those who don't partake, those in the know completely understand the behavior.
Within the body cavity, are salty and spicy juices from the boil. Along with the juices, there is a yellow substance, or the "fat" which is the most prized. Hardcore Cajuns actually pinch the head a little as they suck, to savor every last drop. Cajuns being Cajuns and not astacologists (crawfish biologists), called it fat at some point in time. This very rich and super flavorful "fat" is really the hepatopancreatic tissue, which functions as the primary energy storage organ within the crawfish.
If you have eaten crawfish before, but they were not from Louisiana, you have not tasted the fat. Chinese crawfish tailmeat, the most commercially available crawfish product in the U.S., is rinsed free of fat prior to cryovac packaging. This extends the shelf life of the crawfish, as extended contact with the fat will cause the meat to spoil faster.
Commercially packaged Louisiana crawfish tails are almost always sold in their fresh form, and contain this vibrant orange-yellow fat. In addition to adding visual appeal, the fat contributes to the unmistakable richness of the meat, similar to the rich flavor profiles found in shrimp and lobsters.
Flavor without Attention
OK, so maybe the thought of doing "that" at a crawfish boil in front of your friends, family, or coworkers isn't going to happen for you. Humor us. After you have pulled the tail of the crawfish head, look for the yellow fat. There will probably be a small morsel on the flap of the tailmeat that was inside the main body part. Dab it with the tip of your finger, and taste it by itself.
If that wasn't enough finger-lickin' yummy goodness, there's more where that came from. You guessed it, inside the head. Using your pinky finger, insert it into the body cavity to your first finger joint, and scoop out along the top of the shell. Now you can savor the flavor without making a scene. Now repeat this, as you are peeling tails. Using your right pinky to extract the fat, peel the tail as usual, then dab your pinky in your mouth right after you pop the tail in. Nobody's the wiser. Suck the Head on the sly - Take that China.