SABAW ENTREE #5: BAGOONG SHRIMP GUMBO
It isn't a Filipino dish but it always reminded me of one. Bold, seasoned flavor. Rich brothy stew. Land and sea proteins in the same bowl. Hella veggies. You can eat it alone, or add rice. There's a recognized mainstream "traditional" way of doing it, but, in reality it's, a dish that drastically varies from one kitchen to the next. Most of all, it's food that bears influences from many cultural traditions whose meeting point was colonization and trade. Filipinos know that part very well.
But it also turned out that Filipinos were in the bayous of Louisiana around the same time French Acadians and African slaves turned up there. The "Manilamen" in villages like St. Malo near New Orleans were known for harvesting shrimp and introducing the shrimp drying process to other peoples. There were no Filipina women around, so they intermarried with the Choctaw Indians, Cajuns and Black folk.
It wasn't a big community or a continuous wave of Filipino migration, so it's difficult to say exactly what sort of influence the Manilamen had on the evolution of gumbo. But if these men were the Shrimp Gawds in the time and place where gumbo was born, then it isn't a stretch to say they had a small part in it. At the very least, they ate it, or some version of it, and likely thought the dish to be similar to the seafood and stew based diet of their homeland.
So this dish is a tribute to the Manilamen and all overseas Filipinos who transformed the landscape of their new homes. It reimagines what a Filipino variation of gumbo might've been like if they had more access to the flavors of home. Based on a classic dark Cajun gumbo recipe, bagoong (fermented shrimp paste) is infused with the roux before being added to the stock, which is made in three stages (chicken bones, then vegetables & herbs, then shrimp). Longanisa sausage replaces the andouille. Siling labuyo replaces the cayenne pepper. A little dungeness crab meat and pork floss. And the star of the dish: Shrimp, alaea salt-marinated and steamed with garlic & ginger.