When you talk about Cajun cuisine, I’m sure you have probably heard the word Gumbo. But have you ever wondered what gumbo is?
The word gumbo literally means Okra. The French settlers in the Louisiana territory had trouble finding their usual ingredients for their French dishes so they substituted with the common local ingredients. These were mainly, fish, okra and shrimp.
Gumbo consists of two basic ingredients. These ingredients are rice and broth. The rice used in gumbo is traditionally white rice that is steamed or boiled. A touch of salt and/or vinegar may be added for flavor.
The broth for gumbo is where the differences come in. Broth may be made from a variety of things. A very common type of gumbo broth includes shrimp, crab and oysters. But the variety doesn’t stop there. There is gumbo broth that is made with chicken, duck, turkey and even quail.
True gumbo will contain okra. While some people may think of okra as a disgusting, gelatinous vegetable, this is not an accurate description once it is cooked in a gumbo dish.
The gelatinous fibers in the okra will dissolve when heated and it will serve as a thickening agent for the gumbo.
In fact, if the okra is really fresh and sliced really thin, there will be no visible evidence of the okra once the gumbo is cooked. The only thing is will leave behind is a wonderful flavor. Even if whole pieces of okra remain in the gumbo dish, it will be very soft. It is not slimy at all and it tastes really good.
There are alternatives to okra that people will use and try to pass the dish off as gumbo. The usual alternative thickening agent is a powder that is made from dried sassafras leaves.
But this dried sassafras powder can become gummy when boiled. It must not be simmered in the soup, but must be added right before serving or it can be sprinkled on each individual dish at the table. This powder is used when okra is not in season. But when sassafras powder is used, the dish really shouldn’t be called gumbo.
So there you have the basics for gumbo. If youre into Cajun cooking or ready to get started cooking Cajun, start by finding some great gumbo recipes. These recipes are relatively easy to make and can be a delicious addition to your weekly dinner menu.