Gumbo is a spicy stew-type dish typical of Louisiana cuisine. Gumbo, could be a derivation of traditional French soups, particularly the fish stew bouillabaisse. Although, today gumbo is served all around the world, its origins begin in the Cajun and Creole communities in southern Louisiana. The hearty dish consists of basically three ingredients: broth, meat and rice. There are more varieties of gumbo than one could count and no one-way to make this delicious dish. The main varieties of gumbo include seafood, chicken, red meats, sausage, and pork. Those who prefer more of a kick to their gumbo add their favorite Louisiana hot sauce. Vegetarian gumbo can be made by substituting the meat for mashed greens that have been thickened by a roux.
The most popular style of gumbo is Creole. The Creole gumbo is a mixture of Spanish, French, and African cuisines. During the cold winters, Acadians generally cooked soups, using whatever ingredients were readily available. When the Acadians moved to Louisiana in the mid-18th century, they were unable to find many of their traditional ingredients, including turnips and cabbage. Acadian colonists substituted local ingredients for those commonly included in the original stew. Instead of the fish, settlers used shellfish. The dish was later modified to include ingredients common in other cultures.
The Creoles not only added the “Holy Trinity”, green peppers, garlic, and onions, but also a variety of other vegetables and herbs. Spices are lightly used, as gumbo is supposed to have a subtle, rather than a strong, flavor. The Creoles make a gumbo focused much more on filé. Filé is ground up sassafras leaves, which was introduced to settlers of the New World by the Native Americans. Sausage or ham is often added to gumbos of any variety. After the base is prepared, the vegetables are cooked down and the meat is added. The dish simmers for a minimum of three hours, with shellfish and some spices added near the end. If desired, filé powder is added after the pot is removed from heat.
Another very popular style of gumbo is the Cajun style, its dark roux cooked until right before being burnt usually identifies Cajun gumbo. The roux is used with filé or okra. Cajun style cooking is considered a countrified version of Creole, as the Cajuns had to make do with what was available such as, wild game and local vegetables and spices. Seafood is popular in Cajun gumbo, but the southwestern areas of Louisiana often use fowl and sausage. The fowl is generally not de-boned, and onions, celery, and bell pepper are not strained out of the dish. Cajun gumbo is usually topped with parsley and green onions.