Viet-Cajun seafood boils are a fixture in Houston, Texas, where you can find a thriving Vietnamese community that blends the bright, bold flavors of Vietnam with the fresh-as-can-be seafood found throughout the Gulf Coast and the many surrounding lakes and rivers. Traditionally, the seafood and vegetables are boiled then tossed in a buttery sauce infused with garlic and spices, but for this take on the Houston favorite, we steam everything in banana leaves and serve the dish piping hot right off the grill.
Fill a large saucepan halfway with cold water then add the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of the Cajun seasoning. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, then continue to cook until the potatoes are fork-tender (but the skins are still fully intact), about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and set aside.
While the potatoes cook, use sharp kitchen shears to cut lengthwise through the shells along the back of the shrimp, stopping at the tails and making sure to cut through the edge of the flesh. Devein the shrimp while keeping the shells as intact as possible. Transfer the shrimp to a large bowl and refrigerate while you make the butter sauce.
Melt 1/2 stick of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 sticks butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and starting to bubble, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the fish sauce, lime zest and juice, cayenne pepper if using, and the remaining 3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning. Stir to combine and add more Cajun seasoning if desired. The butter sauce should be very strongly seasoned. Cover with a lid and set aside.
Prepare a grill for medium-high indirect heat (for a gas grill, leave one or two burners on low or off; for a charcoal grill, bank the coals on one side of the grill). The ideal cooking temperature is 375 to 400 degrees F.
On a large rimmed baking sheet, lay out 2 extra-long pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil with 8 inches of overhang on all sides of the baking sheet. Top with 3 of the banana leaves, overlapping them slightly to cover the foil completely. Moisten both sides of the banana leaves with a damp cloth (this will help prevent tearing). Cut the remaining banana leaf in half crosswise and set aside.
To the bowl of shrimp, add 1/4 cup of the butter sauce and toss to combine. Arrange the shrimp in the center of the banana leaves in a single layer. In the empty bowl (no need to clean it out), combine the cooked potatoes, corn, sausage, and 1/2 cup of the butter sauce (reserve the rest for serving) and toss gently to combine. Arrange the vegetables and sausage on top of the shrimp. Cover the shrimp mixture with the halved banana leaf. Gently fold the sides of the bottom banana leaves up and over the shrimp mixture. Use 2 long pieces of kitchen twine to tie the banana leaf packet together. Do not pull the twine too tight or it will rip the banana leaves. Fold the foil overhanging from the longer sides of the baking sheet over the banana leaves then fold over the foil from the shorter sides.
Transfer the foil packet to the grill. Cook for 45 minutes.
Use oven mitts or 2 large metal spatulas to transfer the packet back onto the baking sheet. Carefully open the foil, cut away the twine, and unwrap the banana leaves (discard the ones directly on top of the shrimp mixture). Drizzle the remaining butter sauce over the seafood boil and stir to combine. Serve immediately with warm toasted bread, lime wedges and hot sauce on the side.
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