David Tanis, who writes the weekly City Kitchen column, is the author of two cookbooks, “A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes” and “Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys.”
The gumbo in this week’s City Kitchen column includes a particularly interesting ingredient: dried shrimp.
Though dried shrimp is used in many cuisines, from Asian to Mexican, it is also a traditional element in the Louisiana kitchen, used as a flavor-enhancer in long-simmered dishes and a salty snack known as Cajun jerky, which is good with a cold beer.
The process of sun-drying shrimp was introduced to Louisiana over a hundred years ago by Chinese and Filipino immigrants who saw the shrimp-rich region as an opportunity for export. Today, dried shrimp, though no longer sun-dried, is still a profitable industry, and, just as importantly, a sustainable one. Since Louisiana dried shrimp are all wild-harvested, not farmed, the process is not harmful to the environment.
Even in New York’s Chinatown, Louisiana dried shrimp commands a higher price than those imported from Asia, and they are a recommended alternative to the farm-raised type. For this gumbo recipe, use wild fresh shrimp as well, or wild frozen if fresh is not available.