What is Chicken Booyah?
Chicken Booyah is a super “stick to your ribs” soup-stew made with chicken. While chicken soup is universal and variations of this dish can be found in many cultures world wide, northeastern Wisconsin is the only place in the world where Chicken Booyah is found. It is a favorite at the many festivals, church picnics, bazaars, and any other large gathering in the northeast part of Wisconsin. Booyah is lovingly called “Belgian Penicillin.”
This chicken soup is typically made in large 10- or 20-gallon batches, cooked outdoors over a wood fire, and worked on by several people at once. Restaurants have their own special recipe.
Photo courtsey of the St. Patrick Church in Askeaton.
Chicken Booyah History:
The first Belgian immigrants arrived in Wisconsin in 1853. These immigrants were from the French-speaking part of Belgium, with their own language called “Walloon.” Walloon is not a version of French. It is a language with its own grammar and vocabulary. Even today, the area settled by these people in Wisconsin, they settled in a corner of eastern Wisconsin near Lake Michigan, is known as the Walloon area. The theory is that the uneducated Belgian could not spell, thus writing down the word he heard.
It is believed that the word “Booyah” comes from the word “bouillon.” Another theory is that the word comes from the French word “bouillir,” but also like the Walloon word “bouyu” (pronounced like “boo-yu” with a “u” between and with the French pronunciation of the letter). For years people have been trying to figure out the origination and what makes it so special . Yannick Bauthie of Gembloux, Belgium sent me the following information:
In history, Walloons spoke Walloon. Only the most educated people (counts, dukes, scholars, monks, etc.) spoke French as a second language. Our people started to learn French when Belgium was created, in 1830. And even then, Walloon remained our main language until World War II. My grand father spoke Walloon much better than French. So, most settlers coming from Wallonia hardly spoke much French.
That’s why, in my humble opinion, “booyah” doesn’t come from French “bouillon” or “bouillir” but from Walloon “bouyon” or “bouyu”. But that’s just my opinion !!!!
Chicken Booyah Recipe:
This is one of those delicious recipes that makes a large quantity. Plan to have family and friends over to help you eat it.