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Louisiana cuisine is famous for many flavorful dishes. Calas, are deep fried rice cakes, and one of the most famous breakfast foods of New Orleans. The cakes are made up of flour, sugar, rice, and eggs. They are featured in most Creole cuisine cookbooks.
Some chefs prefer to flavor their fritters with ground nutmeg. This adds a tangy taste to the cakes. Fruit may also be added if desired. Legends of the pasty's origin point to early French colonists, who are said to have made the doughnuts to appease their hungry children. The word calas, however, is said to have come from the African Nupe word kara, or fried cake.
Preparing callas the traditional way is a two day process. During the first day, water is combined with sugar in a bowl. Yeast is added; then very soft, cooked rice. After the mixture is stirred, it should be covered with plastic wrap and left to sit at room temperature overnight. Taking these steps will ensure a flavorful, sourdough-like taste, as well as a simple cooking process for the next morning.
On the second day of cooking, the mixture should be stirred once again. Any flavoring that the cook wishes to add, such as nutmeg or vanilla extract, is added. Eggs, flour, and salt are also combined with the batter. The loose mixture should then sit untouched in a warm place for another hour to ensure light, fluffy finished treats.
A saucepan should then be prepared with peanut oil. Once hot, the batter should be dropped into the pan, fried, and turned until golden brown. To finish the recipe, the cakes are typically topped with heavy amounts of powdered sugar or cane syrup. Sometimes black-eyed peas are used in place of rice.
Also known as creole rice fritters, or rice doughnuts, calas rice cakes are a rich part of New Orleans history. In the late 1800s, hot, fresh calas were sold in the French Quarter by street vendors. Most of these sellers, known as Calas Women, sold their pastries in covered baskets or bowls in the early morning. Modern day Beignets have replaced the rice fritters in most areas, though they can still be prepared to order in some restaurants.
Many people make calas cakes to simply use up leftover white rice. A popular way to serve the cakes includes eating them with Cafe au Lait or coffee. Honey can also be drizzled on top of calas instead of powdered sugar or syrup.