Susan Spicer Spices It Up In New Orleans


“Our restaurant gives you New Orleans. Our menu gives you the world” is the tagline of Bayona, one of the most famous restaurants in New Orleans, nestled in a 200-year-old Creole cottage in the French Quarter.  You’ll be surprised to learn that many Indian spices from garam masala to kalonji are used in its cuisine.


Its star chef Susan Spicer, who has received every honor from the James Beard Foundation award to the Mondavi Culinary Excellence Award, has herself never been to India; yet many Indian spices find their way into her eclectic cuisine.

“I grew up in Holland and my mother often cooked curries which had Indonesian influences,” she recalls. “When I was about 22, I visited London and tried the food in the many Indian restaurants.” She was hooked, and over the years through eating at various places and experimenting with recipes in books, she made these spices her own.

It’s serendipitous that Susan’s last name is Spicer for she has embraced spices of many countries. At Bayona she has many unique dishes and there are several with an Indian spirit. Having eaten the authentic Indian bhajees, she creates an onion and tomato mix, using carrots. She often uses an eggplant raita over fish, and her crawfish with a curry paste enhanced sauce is particularly popular at the restaurant.

Spicer has a reputation for transforming traditional dishes and turning them on their head. An innocuous peanut butter and jelly sandwich in her hands becomes a smoked duck, cashew butter and pepper jelly sandwich. Amongst Indian spices her favorites are cardamom and coriander that are prime ingredients in a dish like Grilled Shrimp with Black Bean Cake and Coriander Sauce. She’s also used ready curry sauces like Pathak in inventive ways. Taking inspiration from commercial Indian pickles, she makes her own salted lemon pickles for the restaurant.

Spicer would probably be like a kid in a candy store were she to visit the spice markets of Cochin! 

Crawfish & Curried Cream Cheese Phyllo Turnover

 (10-12 portions)


1 lb crayfish tails, roughly chopped (may substitute shrimp or crabmeat)
1 lb cream cheese, softened
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp chopped tarragon
1 bunch chopped green onions, green and white
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp curry paste (Patak’s) or curry powder
1/2 tsp red chili paste or red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt
2 Tbsp Lime Juice

Soften cream cheese in large bowl.  Add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly with a strong wooden spoon, (or you can use a mixer with a paddle instead of a whip).  Taste for seasoning. You may want to wait and add the red pepper after mixing, depending on how hot your curry paste or powder is.

To Wrap:

1/2 lb Phyllo (comes in 1 lb boxes)
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

Lay one sheet of dough at a time with long side facing you, lightly buttering and sprinkling with crumbs between the layers.  When you have 3 layers, cut them (from top to bottom) into 3, place a large spoonful (about 3 oz) of filling in the lower corner and fold flag-style up to the end into triangle shapes.  Brush tops with butter and sprinkle lightly with crumbs.  Place on a plate or tray lined with parchment and refrigerate until ready to use.  Bake at 400° for 10-12 minutes, until dough is golden brown and crispy. 

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