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Like Louisiana cuisine in general, gumbo mixes, matches, and blends. It creates something glorious from sundry elements. Both Cajun and Creole, the cooking canon of this multicultural meal honors only a few rules. It must contain rice that is cooked separately and added after the soup itself is made. It should start with a roux made of flour and fat (traditionally lard). And it must be thickened as it cooks, using either okra or filé powder.
Virtually no element is taboo. A culinary explorer will encounter seafood gumbo made with crawfish, shrimp, crab and / or oysters. Sausage gumbo often welcomes duck or chicken. During Lent, you might find meatless gumbo z’herbs. Varieties of greens take the place of seafood or meats.
Gumbo is America’s great multicultural meal. People think of it as Louisianian. It is in fact the official state cuisine. But people from the Lowcountry to the Mobile Bay consider gumbo a symbol of their culinary identity, too. Its roots are French (like bouillabaisse), Spanish (the inclusion of celery, onions and peppers is basically sofrito) and Choctaw Indian (filé powder is ground sassafras leaves). Its name comes from the African bantu word kingombo. That means okra – a fundamental ingredient.