Food & Drink

Afro-Asian-American Gumbo

Makes 4 to 6 servings

A crab, shrimp, and chicken sausage take on the classic stew

Photo: Beatriz da Costa

This gumbo dish is another story of migration and change. It starts in Senegal and then moves on to South Carolina and Louisiana before coming up to Harlem. The roux is at the heart of every good gumbo, and this one uses dried shrimp, which is a touch of Senegal. The shrimp gives it an oceany umami flavor that you wouldn’t traditionally get in a Southern gumbo or a Louisiana gumbo. Louisiana comes out in the richness of the roux as you add spices. But unlike Louisiana gumbo, this dish is more about the soup than the rice, so it’s poured on top of the rice like it’s done in South Carolina. —From BETWEEN HARLEM AND HEAVEN


    • 4 tbsps. salted butter

    • ¼ cup vegetable oil

    • ½ cup all-purpose flour

    • 1 cup minced onion

    • 4 cloves garlic, minced

    • ¼ cup minced celery

    • ½ cup minced red bell pepper

    • ½ cup grape tomatoes, halved

    • ½ cup whole dried shrimp

    • ¾ cup Gumbo Spice Mix (see below)

    • 1 tbsp. tomato paste

    • 5 cups chicken stock

    • 1 cup okra cut into rounds

    • 2 tbsps. fresh lemon juice

    • 2 tsps. Worcestershire sauce

    • ½ cup Chinese chicken sausage

    • ½ cup lump crabmeat

    • 1 cup whole fresh Gulf shrimp

    • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    • 4 cups cooked jasmine rice

  • Gumbo Spice Mix (Makes about 2/3 cup)

    • 1 tbsp. dried oregano

    • 1 tbsp. dried thyme

    • 1 tsp. powdered bay leaf

    • 1½ tbsps. garlic powder

    • 1 tbsp. onion powder

    • ½ tsp. red chile flakes, or more to taste

    • ½ tsp. ground cayenne, or more to taste

    • 2 tbsps. sugar

    • 2 tbsps. smoked paprika

    • 1 tbsp. kosher salt

    • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a heavy 4- to 5-quart pot, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Once the butter begins to bubble slightly, add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to form a smooth paste.

  2. Cook the mixture for about 10 minutes to make a chocolate colored roux. While the roux cooks, make sure to stir continuously, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot to avoid burning. It is important to keep a very close eye on the roux during this step. The roux can go from a complex nutty color and aroma to burnt beyond repair in a matter of minutes.

  3. After the roux turns from a smooth peanut butter color and consistency to one resembling rich chocolate, add the onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, and tomatoes; this will stop the roux from overcooking and burning.

  4. Lower the heat and cook the vegetables over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the dried shrimp, spice mix, and tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes.

  5. Slowly whisk in the stock and stir until the stock is completely blended with the roux and vegetable mixture. Add the okra, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, sausage, crabmeat, and shrimp and let simmer for about 1 hour over very low heat, stirring occasionally with the wooden spoon.

  6. Season the gumbo to taste with salt and pepper and serve over the rice.

  7. *For the Gumbo Spice Mix: 

    Stir together and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Excerpted from BETWEEN HARLEM AND HEAVEN by JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls. Copyright © 2018. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved.