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Jun 25, 2007 07:11 PM

The state of turtle soup

Perhaps Hungry Celeste can reach broader afield than Yr Hmble S'vt, but reports just came in from a friend---a former Wage Slave at Commander's Palace (just kidding--he liked the place and Miz Ella)--that he ate at the old joint a week ago & had their turtle soup. He said that he always loved it--it _is_ very good, but that it is a fake (not "mock" turtle soup because it uses beef (and veal stock--as most place have done for years)). Well & good...he knew what he was getting into. His remark to me was that, no matter how nice the soup was, he longed for the Real Thing at Ma Mama's in New Roads.

I sympathize...went to New Roads on Father's Day and found the restaurant closed (they are usually open on Sunday). Went back last Friday and the turtle soup was the best it has ever been....perhaps becuiase of the thwarted effort earlier. I have witnesses, though; ain;t just me. It is $13.00 a bowl but, having made caught turtles and cleaned them I can testify that the price is a bargain.

Has some turlte soup in various places in Breaux Bridge...decent, but not anywhere near the New Roads genius.

Side note: someone reported that Don's meats at Scott/Cankton was robbed awhile back. Word is that the theives got little cash but probably got away with a 100 pounds of cracklings--street value must have been over a Grand...(hell it is $9.99 a pound there and also at the Best Stop!)

Lotsa fun.....

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  1. This place is the real deal. So if a road trip is in order here is the address.

    124 West Main Street, New Roads, LA 70760

    What about in New Orleans?

    17 Replies
    1. re: brchow

      There is nothing--in New Orleans or elsewhere--that compares. We are discussing turtle soup that is NOT sea turtle...that was and is a separate category. Just cannot get that anymore in the US.

      1. re: hazelhurst

        My poor daddy had a stroke in December and can no longer drive; one of his biggest laments is that it ended his frequent weekend road trips to eat at Ma Mama's. N.B. on a recent visit to Mandina's, the turtle soup was good, but very clearly NOT turtle...does anyone know if it is always mock at Mandina's or if they "do it right" on certain days or for certain customers?

        1. re: hazelhurst

          Please explain. Are you saying that turtle soup at CP and other restos has no turtle in it, but is something totally different? If so, what is it? Also, what do you mean when you say "We are discussing turtle soup that is NOT sea turtle"?

            1. re: ddavis

              I admonish myself for failure to distinguish---and explain--the turtle soups. In Olden Days we had soup made from Sea Turtles---these were not the Big Boys you see on National Geographic television shows, bu these turles are of the same family. When the Law prohibited catching sea turtle, the trappers sold "swamp turtle" At that time the recipes changed fm the divine sea turtle taste to the "mock turtle" style. And, I rush to say, there is nothing wrong with turtle soup from a Snappin' turtle... damn good.

              I cannot tell anyone that a turtle soup ordered in New Orleans is not aauthentic. I only argue for taste, value and, sometimes, veracity.

              1. re: hazelhurst

                After reading this thread I decided to look up turtle soup in my vintage copy of Maylie's cook book. Maylie's was founded in the late 1890's and their first cook book was printed in 1941. The recipe in the book calls for a 2 to 3 lb. "Louisiana turtle". I would have to say that what we Louisianian's know as turtle soup was never made with sea turtle.

                1. re: brchow

                  My only experience with totally made-from-scratch South Louisiana Turtle Soup was long, long ago when Daddy made me help him kill a snapper for the wonderful soup he then walked me through. I'll spare you the details of the execution and the cleaning which was a royal pain.
                  After that I bought turtle meat at seafood stores in Bucktown. I've seen it occasionally there and at a seafood market on the North Shore recently. They get theirs from a farm operation that raises alligator and turtle.

                  1. re: brchow

                    You are dead on about Maylie's....but sea turtle was available in New Orleans through the 1960's or so. You are also correct that that standard version was just ole-fashion' swamp turtle--it was usually lots thicker than the sea turtle version and no less good. When it became difficult to get the sea turtle, places that served it switched to a veal stock which is still common today and added other meats. A certain private club turtle soup in New Orleans is, in fact,. made with chicken thighs. There is so much thyme and allspice and everything else in it that is gets by---and is pretty damn good.

                    All that said, I am reminded of something Pat Huval told me years ago; he said that when he was "coming up" no one admitted to eating 'coon, turtle or crawfish. It was shameful--suggested you were poor (which everyone was, of course).

                    Speaking of Maylie's, see if your cookbook has Anna Mae Maylie's eggs remoulade. Wonderful stuff (but I reduce the relish--too sweet). I miss the hell out of that place. Tujague's is the only remnant of that type of joint. (sniff!)

                    An un-related thought comes to mind: my father could remember when skate was available at Antoine's, Arnaud's etc. It infuriated him when, in the 1960's, he could not order it even in New York. today, it is glamorous. Well, there you are....

                    1. re: hazelhurst

                      All six species of sea turtles occurring in the U.S. are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. So before that, you might have had sea turtle but since then it's been illegal.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        Perhaps I should have specified that I was recalling the soup of the 1960's...I remember that when the ban went into effect there were efforts to use canned turtle to get the same effect but that was abandoned rather quickly. Soon thereafter came the veal stock and the use of meat..and, as I have said, if you spice it up as the turkey/schiken thigh "turtle" soup is, it's pretty good.

                  2. re: hazelhurst

                    I am pretty sure that when we ate it growing up, it was snapping turtle. And it was made in homage to Commander's, so I just assumed that was the species everyone in N.O. and LA used. I'm pretty close to the swamp, and I'd never heard of "swamp turtle." Do you know what species it is?

                    1. re: cajungirl

                      The only turtle I know of anyone eating in the "modern era" (ahem) is snapping turtle. I've heard of people eating sea turtle eggs (not since it became a federal crime, of course), but I don't know that I can recall anyone eating sea turtle. For most of my lifetime, virtually all species of sea turtles in the Gulf have been protected species.

                      1. re: Hungry Celeste

                        Are farm-raised turtles available for consumption anywhere in the U.S.? I know it is available in the Cayman Islands, where they farm-raise it.

                        1. re: ddavis

                          Yes, virtually ALL of the turtle meat sold locally (already cleaned) is from farm-raised turtles, if it is legal. Commercial harvest of alligator snappers is prohibited in LA (since 2004)...I think you might be able to take red-eared turtles, but am not certain. Sam Perino's seafood market on Westbank Expwy sells prepared turtle meat, as do scores of other seafood markets around s. LA.

                        2. re: Hungry Celeste

                          Actually, people in the modern era have been eating common snapping, alligator snapping, Florida softshell and--without knowing it--alligator. I just read an interesting article about DNA samples performed on meat called "turtle meat" that was purchased in Louisiana restaurants and markets. The samples were collected between 1995-97.

                      2. re: hazelhurst

                        I'm pretty sure these where the giant creatures seen on National Geographic. The sea turtles used throughout the U.S. before the ban weighed up to 440 lbs.

                        Mock turtle soup is traditional made from veal. We're talking about the English variety of turtle soup. That version dates to 19th c. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding what you meant by mock turtle style.

                        Edit: This was supposed to be a reply to hazelhurst above. Not sure how it got down here.

                      3. re: ddavis

                        Not sea turtle means, fresh water turtle, or "cooter" as it is called in the deep south.

                  3. Once you pour in the sherry, who cares what kind of turtle is in the soup?

                    1. When I was a teenager, my friends and I made turtle soup (in Virginia) with snappers caught in our pond. It was totally delicious, and the memory tempts me to go turtle-trolling in some local subdivision run-off ponds. A few years back, a neighbor of mine spied a snapping turtle crossing the road. She jumped out, smashed its head with a stone, and hauled the carcass home to make soup. Now there's an evolved hunter-gatherer for you!

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: pikawicca

                          I'm all for backyard foraging, but suburbanites put too damn many chemicals on their lawns--I'd hesitate to harvest anything from a suburban stormwater retention pond. In addition, check your state's turtle harvest laws...some species are completely protected, others have harvest seasons and size limits.

                        2. Well as a former tip slave at Commanders (over 13 years) I have to stand up for their turtle soup. Yes of course they use beef and veal but there is always a third of high quality turtle meat in their recipe. I have watched it being made and believe me it is in there. Although I do not consider myself an expert on Turtle Soup, I have yet to find another version that exceeds Commanders. I am not sure that a soup that is 100% turtle is necessarily the best version. Beef gives it body, veal texture and the turtle that "je ne se quois" that makes it so wonderful. I am sure I will be flamed for this post but be it as it may. I still crave the stuff......

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Riomarguy

                            You won't be flamed, not on this board. Commander's turtle soup's the only thing I miss from the departed Foodies enterprise (well, that and the blue cheese walnut bread).

                            1. re: Hungry Celeste

                              I'll never deny Commander's turtle soup quality....but try Ma Mama's.....a whole new world. ( $13 a bowl---I've cleaned turtles, I have made turtle soup [not of Ma Mama's quality] and it is worth every penny. The BR Country Club version is good..and I do not dispute the earlier idea of veal and beef being part of good soup. NOCC has employed less-than-turtle in their soup. Hmmmm...kitchens "cheat?" I am shocked...

                              1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                I heard the same thing about CP's using a three-part combination of beef, veal and turtle. It's also worth nothing that Grand Isle cooks down the on-the-bone turtle meat with ox tail.

                            2. Sounds like I have trip to New Roads in my future. I can say that the Baton Rouge Country Club has good turtle soup, better than Mandina's IMO.

                              I just got back from two month or so in China where I saw whole turtle (looked like a soft shell) served in a bowl of broth or something. I did not have the courage to try it.