The Crawfish Guide

Think You've Tasted It All? Here's a New Boil to Try

Behind the recipe made famous on Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown.

By Alice Levitt February 20, 2017 Published in the March 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Image: Tuan Nini

What do Tampico citrus punch, a six-pack of Budweiser and four sticks of salted butter have in common? They’re all ingredients in the highly unconventional crawfish boil created by Jonathan Trinh, the principal at Margaret L. Wisdom High School (formerly Lee), who came to Houston from Vietnam at age 12. Trinh shared his crustacean cooking skills with a national audience last fall when he appeared on the Houston episode of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, hosting the TV chef along with a diverse group of family and friends at his Pearland home.

Trinh usually does his boil in late March, when, he says, crawfish are at their sweetest. He buys two or three bags to feed his super-sized family of 40 to 50 —“That’s when not everybody shows up,” he jokes. Besides the uncommon ingredients, Trinh’s signature recipe, developed over many years of experimentation, leaves out a common addition: vegetables. Without the standard filler of corn and potatoes, he estimates his protein-heavy boils cost him about $20 per pound.

Want to try it? Trinh recommends heading to Rose’s Seafood in Seabrook to stock up on shellfish. And don’t wait until too late in the season—not surprisingly, the frozen crawfish he was forced to use for the CNN shoot during an unseasonably warm June wasn’t up to his usual par. Sorry, Mr. Bourdain; guess you’ll have to come back to Houston sometime in the spring…

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Jonathan Trinh, the principal of Wisdom High School, is a home-boil master.

Jonathan Trinh’s Unconventionally Delicious Crawfish Boil

Yield: 40 to 50 servings


1. Combine all ingredients but crawfish and mix powder in boil pot, off heat.

2. Add crawfish and allow to marinate for 10 minutes.

3. Turn up heat and boil crawfish for 5 to 15 minutes, until bright red.

4. Sprinkle with boil powder before serving.

5. With this amount of crawfish, this will have to be done in stages, so it may be necessary to add more butter in later batches. Remember, this is not an exact science: When boiling crawfish, Trinh says, the best approach is “you do you.”

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