Lang Thang understands why some people feel so uncertain about what to expect when he greets them at his family’s restaurant.
“I get funny looks sometimes,” Thang said. “The restaurant is called Louisiana Seafood, but then they see me. I’m Asian. I’m from Myanmar. So maybe they think the food isn’t authentic.”
“But once they taste it, they know we’re doing things right,” he said, smiling widely.
The store’s full name is Louisiana Seafood & Po’ Boys, which Thang runs with his uncle, Lun Mang, and mother-in-law Niang No.
Thang said his family moved from Myanmar when he was in high school, first settling in Louisiana. He said many of his family members had experience working in restaurants in their home country, and they quickly found jobs in the industry here, including restaurants specializing in Louisiana food.
Thang moved to Tulsa in 2014, because he had a family in the city’s vibrant Myanmar community. And when he thought of starting his own restaurant, he thought of a restaurant serving Myanmar cuisine.
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“But there is another restaurant (Kai Burmese Cuisine) that serves very good food in Myanmar, and we didn’t want to compete with them,” he said. “My uncle learned how to make real Louisiana food, so we decided to bring the real taste of Louisiana to Tulsa.”
This effort to bring “a true taste of Louisiana to Tulsa” involves importing most of its ingredients—from fish and shellfish to po’ boy sandwich bread—from the Pelican State.
True boys enthusiasts – the huge sandwich usually filled with seafood or fried fish, a signature Louisiana creation – are often very particular about the bread used. For them, an authentic tad can only be served in a certain type of French bread, with a light and fluffy crust and a soft but firm interior.
Louisiana Seafood gets its bread from Gambino’s Bakery, a New Orleans establishment that is one of two bakeries whose products are a true boy must-have.
We tried the Shrimp Boy ($11.99) during a recent visit and can attest that the texture and flavor of the bread met all the requirements. Our sandwiches spent a few minutes on the grill or under a panini press, which added some streaks of charcoal to the surface and gave the crust a crispier touch.
It was very generous in size, with copious amount of fried shrimp, topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayonnaise and ketchup. Thang said some people were surprised by the addition of those last spices, but said “when people try it, they love the flavor.”
Po boys are also available with fried oysters, catfish, alligator, softshell crab, crawfish, roast beef, hot sausage, smoked sausage, ham and turkey.
We also tried the medium catfish and shrimp platter ($14.99), which included six large fried shrimp and two good-sized catfish fillets, along with a helping of French fries, a salad of iceberg lettuce, a thick slice of Roma tomato and ranch dressing.
The catfish, as with most of the proteins here, was cooked to order and arrived at the table hot. The fish itself was moist, flaky, and remarkably clean in taste, without the slime or fuzziness that a catfish could have (admittedly some people enjoy it). The crust was light on cornmeal, so it had a crunch without grains.
We also sampled the okra ($6.99), which comes with a full serving of white rice on the side. The broth was colorful and delicious, although it was more mild than I expected. Louisiana-style hot sauce and sriracha are on the table for those who want to up the spice level.
Thang said the way rice and soup are served separately is more in line with Myanmar cuisine.
“We have fried rice on our menu, which is traditional when you have rice to serve with soup,” he said. “That’s why we also have pho (Vietnamese soup) on our menu as well, because our Myanmar customers can order it with fried rice.”
Another multicultural offering is the lobster egg roll ($1.99), a large assortment of finely chopped cabbage, carrots, and lobster in a thin wrapper.
The space occupied by Louisiana Seafood & Po’ Boys has been home to a number of other restaurants, most notably the Asian Kitchen. Thang said he originally looked for a place near Woodland Hills Mall, which is close to where he lives, but found that what was available was either too expensive or not equipped to use the restaurant.
“That was a good thing about this place – we didn’t have to do a lot of things to get it ready,” he said. “I’ve already got new booths and tables and chairs, because the old things were in poor condition.”