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A plate of red beans and rice with sausage from The Chimes restaurant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Red beans and rice is an emblematic dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine (not originally of Cajun cuisine) traditionally made on Mondays with red beans,vegetables (bell pepper, onion, and celery), spices (thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf) and pork bones as left over from Sunday dinner, cooked together slowly in a pot and served over rice. Meats such as ham, sausage (most commonly andouille), and tasso ham are also frequently used in the dish. The dish is customary - ham was traditionally a Sunday meal and Monday was washday. A pot of beans could sit on the stove and simmer while the women were busy scrubbing clothes. The dish is now fairly common throughout the Southeast. Similar dishes are common in Latin American cuisine, including moros y cristianos and gallo pinto.
Red beans and rice is one of the few New Orleans style dishes to be commonly served both in people's homes and in restaurants. Many neighborhood restaurants continue to offer it as a Monday lunch special, usually with a side order of either smoked sausage or a pork chop. While Monday washdays are largely a thing of the past, red beans remain a staple for large gatherings such as Super Bowl and Mardi Gras parties. Indeed, red beans and rice is very much part of the New Orleans identity. Jazz trumpeter and New Orleanian Louis Armstrong's favorite food was red beans and rice - the musician would sign letters "Red Beans and Ricely Yours, Louis Armstrong".
The vegetarian dish Rajma chawal is very similar (which translates literally to red beans and rice), popular in North India. Red beans and rice is also a dietary staple in Central America, where it is known as "arroz con habichuelas". The dish is popular in Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Haitian and Jamaican cuisine as well.
The dish is very nutritious. Rice is rich in starch, an excellent source of energy. Rice also has iron, vitamin B and protein. Beans also contain a good amount of iron and an even greater amount of protein than rice. Together they make up a complete protein, which provides each of the amino acids the body cannot make for itself.
In addition, rice and beans are common and affordable ingredients, often available in difficult economic times.