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Food Porn: Vacation edition

"Iridescent shark sandwich," a Gulf Coast specialty. No, really.

"Iridescent shark sandwich," a Gulf Coast specialty. No, really.

Dear friends: Today your trusty NolaVie Food Pornographer is, in fact, not in New Orleans at all, but relaxing on the beautiful sandy beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast. And by "relaxing," I mean "eating." And by "eating," I mean, "working my way through the mountain of food that my family brought with us for this little beach trip." Speaking of which, here's another lovely "You know you're a New Orleanian when..." for you:

You know you're a New Orleanian when you go on vacation, and you wind up packing significantly more food than actual luggage. Because, really, how much luggage do you need at the beach? Some shorts, tee-shirts, flip flops, a hat, a swimsuit and sunscreen...what else? Pretty simple really. But you're going to have to eat, and that means, as a proud New Orleans resident, you're not leaving your food up to chance. In my family, this means of solid week of cooking, menu-planning, and cooler-packing in anticipation of a one week trip out of town.

Per our regular beach menu, there was crawfish etouffee, a six-pound whole marinated beef tenderloin for the grill, bagels and lox (no escaping our proud Jewish heritage), not to mention abundant tomatoes, corn, peaches, fried cheese straws, cookies, brownies, smoked tuna dip, an assortment of breads, sliced ham and turkey, smoked brisket, "better cheddar," coffee, ice cream, et cetera.

But, this being a vacation, you don't want to spend all of your time in the kitchen, so there's the occasional meal out. As usual, we took a short trip to a local seafood restaurant. You know, the kind of place that specializes in most of the fruits of the Gulf of Mexico, provided they are preceded with the word "fried." That means fried oysters, fried shrimp, fried soft-shells, French fries, fried hush puppies...it's a miracle that the side salad wasn't battered, breaded and thrown in the fryer simply as a matter of consistency.

Given the options, I decided to go with the house fried fish sandwich. It wasn't grouper, which I was hoping for, but it would have been small and cost-prohibitive. So I went with what's known as "swai." I did this for several reasons:

Firstly, the fish known as "swai," also goes by the name "iridescent shark." Have you ever eaten a deep fat-fried iridescent shark sandwich? Neither have I. And now that I can say I have, even though swai -- which is not even a shark, but rather a catfish relative -- are native to Southeast Asia and have become popular with Louisiana fish farmers for their flaky, delicate flesh. Still, "iridescent shark." That just sounds so cool, doesn't it? Secondly, it was a specialty of this restaurant, so I knew there was a good chance that they'd prepare it properly. And, finally, because of swai's inexpensive fillets, they go by a fair price and even more fair portions. Done. Sold.

I was not disappointed (see photographic evidence at top).

I'm looking forward to coming back home to New Orleans, but I'm not going to waste what's left of my time on the Gulf Coast. So, with my belly full of fried iridescent shark and fried potatoes and a few fried oysters, I'm going to lather up my now-engorged, woefully pail belly with military-grade SPF and hit the beach. Because this isn't just American, dammit. It's Alabama. I'd have to do so much more to turn a head around these parts.


Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore, has written for Gourmet, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit, ThrillistEdible Brooklyn, Tasting Table, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo essay designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Find him on Twitter @scottgold.