Gumbo is a dish made out of meat or shellfish slowly stewed in a spice infused stock seasoned with vegetables and finished with a thickener which usually is okra. This thickener is the most important ingredient in this dish as it usually defines what category the gumbo fall in:
- Choctaw spice filé powder gumbo - The thickener used in this gumbo is called filé. File is a powder made from crushing leaves from the sassafras plant, this is an ancient thickener ingredient used by the Choctaw Indians. Using filé will give a very distinct and authentic flavour other thickener could not achieve.
- Okra gumbo - Okra is another traditional thickener used in gumbo, using this vegetable will also give a different texture as it will be thick but slimy as well.
- Roux gumbo - Now modern gumbo version uses roux which is basically flour cooked in oil or butter until it turns light brown in colour. This version will not yield the distinct flavour the two methods above can give hence more spices are added when this type of gumbo is being used. This version is common in Cajun or Creole cooking.
Gumbo is really popular in Louisiana, in fact the dish is the official cuisine of the state of Louisiana. The dish also originated there during the 18th century and it is considered a melting pot of a dish at it combines ingredients and culinary practices coming from several cultures like West African, French, Spanish, German, and Choctaw Indians. Having said that this dish was based on traditional West African dishes with a combination of the techniques used in the French dish bouillabaisse.
Traditionally gumbos are cooked with shrimps or shell fish but it had evolved and chicken or any fowl meat can be used, there are even vegetarian version of this dish where corn is used as a substitute for meat. For this post we will be making this with chicken and here it is.
700g boneless chicken thighs, sliced into 2 in cubes
300g okra, sliced
2 celery sticks, chopped
3 pcs green finger chillies
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red onion, chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
4 pcs Spanish chorizo, sliced
6 pcs large tomatoes, chopped
500 ml chicken stock
2 tbsp oil
freshly ground black pepper
1. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper, heat oil in a pot then brown chicken pieces. Once browned remove chicken then set aside.
2. Using the same pot, sauté garlic and onion.
3. Add celery and continue to stir fry.
4. Sprinkle oregano, paprika, cumin.
5. Pour chicken stock on the pot, bring to a boil then add tomatoes and chicken on top. Simmer in low heat for 15 minutes.
6. Add chorizo then simmer in low heat for 10 minutes.
7. Add okra, then simmer for an additional 10 – 15 minutes or until the okra is soft and cooked.
8. Season with salt and pepper, then enjoy with rice.