Searching Louisiana for the Perfect Gumbo
Let’s get something straight. Louisiana loves gumbo. This is the state’s official dish, after all, as proclaimed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2004. There are no fewer than five Louisiana festivals dedicated to gumbo, and at least as many cultures that have contributed to the dish: filé powder from the Choctaw Indians, okra from Africa, roux from France and other influences from Germany, Spain and beyond.
And the most important fact about gumbo? It is delicious.
What is Gumbo?
In general, gumbo is a mixture of chopped onions, shrimp, andouille sausage, chicken, salt, garlic, celery, parsley, bell peppers, okra and that most important of ingredients: roux, an ingredient that famed chef and historian John Folse has called “the heart and soul of Louisiana cuisine.”
Like gumbo itself, there are as many different ways to make a roux as there are chefs who make it. In short, it is a thickener for gumbo, made with flour and butter, oil or fat. Serve the roux with stock, meat and vegetables poured over rice, and voilà: You’ve made gumbo.
Gumbo Ingredients from Louisiana
With this in mind, let’s go on a little adventure around the state to find the locally produced and locally grown ingredients that make for the perfect gumbo.
Let’s start down south, where we’ll pick up Louisiana Gulf shrimp from the Seafood Shed in Golden Meadow, Louisiana. Along this stretch of highway you’ll find dozens of other waterfront seafood outlets as well, whose shrimp make for delicious gumbo.
Head north to New Orleans, and we’ll swing by the French Market for bell peppers and onions, plus some Louisiana hot sauces that will give our gumbo a little extra fire. Then cross Lake Pontchartrain to the town of Amite, where Liuzza Produce Farm welcomes visitors to tour the property (via covered wagon), pick their own veggies and pet the farm animals.
Search for sausage in LaPlace, home to two of Louisiana’s best-known meat markets: Jacob’s World Famous Andouille and Bailey’s World Famous Andouille. In October, LaPlace hosts the annual Andouille Festival, where you can also find some great links.
Next up: rice, spice and shrimp. Iberia Parish is home to America’s oldest operating rice mill, Conrad Rice Mills. These producers of Konriko brand rice also offer tours of their facility. Just south of New Iberia you’ll find one of Louisiana’s most famous exports, TABASCO hot pepper sauce (made by the McIlhenny Company, which also offers factory tours) and fresh seafood from Delcambre Seafood & Farmers Market.
Wrapping up our little intrastate jaunt, let’s stop by Haughton. Situated halfway between Minden and Shreveport, this town is home to the Haughton Farmer’s Market and Heirloom Farms, where you’ll find some fine Louisiana-grown okra.
Now that you’ve picked up your groceries, cook up some great Louisiana gumbo, kick back and relax. You’ve earned it.
Read more about Louisiana’s savory cuisine by visiting Louisiana Culinary Trails.