Baking & Dessert

By Suzannah Schneider | August 1, 2014

New Orleans Calas

Photo by rdpeyton

You know about beignets, but have you heard of calas? Calas are a snack or dessert from New Orleans. They’re a simple yet scrumptious blend of leftover rice stirred into an sugary egg batter, then deep fried and topped with powdered sugar. The process is much like the quintessential beignet, but the history is much more dynamic.

It’s likely that calas came to New Orleans through slaves from the rice-growing parts of Africa, such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ghana. Beginning with the French rule of the 1700s, slaves were usually given Sundays off each week. Calas vendors, the so-called “calas women,” began selling the fritter-like bites outside of the famous St. Louis Cathedral to the well-heeled white churchgoers while calling, “Belle Calas! Tout chauds!” — “Beautiful calas! Very hot!”

The Spanish took control of Louisiana in the 1790s, making it legal for slaves to buy the right to their freedom with cortacion. This meant that calas was often the currency by which the enslaved became free people of color. Approximately 1,400 New Orleans slaves purchased their freedom under Spanish rule, although it is unknown how many did so with profits from calas. Street vendors selling calas and other street food remained prevalent in the city until the early 20th century, but the tradition dwindled and just one calas vendor remained in 1940.

However, Poppy Tooker, of Slow Food New Orleans and Louisana Eats!, is on a crusade to bring back this historic and delicious dessert. She emphasizes, “It was with calas money that many slaves freed themselves…this is an important dish!” For many New Orleanians, calas can have the evocative power to recreate memories of another era, and are a cornerstone of culture and cuisine.

Poppy’s recipe is adapted below. Her calas are beyond delectable. A recipe that requires 5-6 cups of oil for frying? Sign us up!

Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 3 heaping tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 5-6 cups vegetable oil for frying
  • Powdered sugar for topping

Directions

Mix the rice with flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Sprinkle on the vanilla and mix well.

Add eggs and when thoroughly mixed, drop by tablespoonfuls into the hot oil (360 degrees.) Fry until browned on both sides.

Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve hot.

More about: , , , , ,

You Might Also Like:

Featured Recipe

Image by Rod Waddington Dinner

By Suzannah Schneider

Injera

More Recipes

Meet the Team

About The Team

Whether it’s finding the best goat tacos in LA, spotting a well-worn vintage bag in Sweden, or interviewing the “crab man” selling seafood on a corner in Harlem, we tell stories seen from Chef Marcus Samuelsson‘s point of view. MarcusSamuelsson.com strives to create conversations about food, nutrition, culture, art, and design. We want to find Read More

Restaurants

Red Rooster Harlem
Ginny’s Supper Club
Uptown Brasserie
American Table Cafe and Bar
Kitchen and Table
American Table Brasserie and Bar
Norda
Marc Burger