It's been over two months since I've gotten back from an awesome few days in New Orleans, which is now one my most favourite cities in the world not only for the beautiful music but also for some of the fabulous food and ales I tried while I was there. It's about time I cleared out the backlog and shared some of my experiences of the city before I set off on another international adventure.
Renowned for its Creole and Cajun flavours that are a combination of the best of French, Spanish and African cuisines, I was eager to hit the streets and experience the same. My first stop after arriving in New Orleans was the renowned Gumbo Shop. Established in 1948, the Gumbo Shop claimed to offer some of the best flavours of New Orleans. Well, with over six decades of being in the scene, one would expect nothing less. The Gumbo Shop featured among the top two 'must try' places in almost every list I read. I arrived just a little past noon to find the place packed and had to stand in line for about twenty minutes before I got a table. Seated right opposite a large mural of the iconic Jackson Square from way back in the day, I instantly fell in love with the fairly rustic look of the place.
I started off by ordering a small bowl of Chicken Andouille Gumbo, which arrived sooner than expected. The moment it was placed on the table, I had a look and wasn't too sure about what emotion to process. At the risk of sounding uncouth, the gumbo looked like the New Orleans version of the Indian favourite Raajma-Chaawal (Kidney Beans and rice) with sausages thrown in. While I was disappointed by the appearance, the flavours were something else. The gravy was packed with strong spicy meaty flavours of the andouille, a cajun styled chicken sausage and the chicken broth. The okra seasoning brought some relief with its impactful herbal flavour. It's a good thing I ordered a small bowl because anything larger would have filled me up.
For the main course, I ordered the Jambalaya, another dish I've heard and read so much about with a side order of Alligator Sausages with a spicy orange marmalade dipping sauce. Yes, you read that correct - Alligator sausages. While the dish looked like any other regular sausage, the flavours of the meat with the spicy-sweet-citrus kick of the dipping sauce made me fall in love with the dish instantly. Alligator meat is a white meat that has a flavour that finds a place somewhere between chicken and fish. High in protein, with the right amount of gaminess, alligator is a staple dish in creole cuisine. The sausages were mildly spice with the cajun flavour and smoked perfectly. What took the sausages from a good dish to a great dish was undoubtedly the spicy orange marmalade dipping sauce. I shamelessly asked for another helping of the dipping sauce to polish off just by itself. The folks at the Gumbo Shop were kind enough not to charge me extra for that.
The Jambalaya, a rice-based dish cooked with smoked sausage, shrimp, and chicken was a bit of a disappointment in terms of appearance and in terms of flavour. Drawing parallels with saambar, the dish reminded me of the saambar-rice that would be packed into lunch boxes during school and would end up being completely dry by the time lunch came around. I did have to throw in the towel halfway through because the dish did nothing for me. I ordered a second plate of Alligator Sausages.
Dessert included a relatively simple Praline Sundae. Two scoops of vanilla ice cream with a lovely caramel sauce, topped with praline and pecan nuts was just what the doctor ordered after a meal packed with the mighty flavours of gumbo and alligator sausages.
While the meal worked out to a little over $40, it was completely worth it. The Gumbo Shop set the stage for all the lovely creole flavours I was going to experience in New Orleans. I returned to the Gumbo Shop three more times during my trip just to have a plate of the Alligator Sausages.