What is Booya? (also spelled booyah, bouja, boulyaw, or bouyou) is a thick stew believed to have originated in Belgium, and made throughout the Upper Midwest. Found at church picnics, small county fairs or at private booya parties throughout northeast Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Booya can require up to two days and multiple cooks to prepare; it is cooked in specially designed “booya kettles” and usually meant to serve hundreds or even thousands of people. The name can also refer to a social event surrounding the meal.
In cooking booya, one makes a base or broth derived from meat bones, to which vegetables are added. Beef, chicken, and pork are popular varieties of meat for booya (with all three often in the same kettle), with vegetables such as carrots, peas onion, and potatoes also in the mix. A wide variety of seasonings are used, sometimes lowered into the kettle in a cheesecloth bag. Typical large-scale booya kettles can hold more than 50 US gallons (190 L) and are made from steel or cast iron to withstand direct heat and the hours (or days) of cooking.