Name Variations Edit
- gumbo file
- gumbo filé
- ground sassafras leaves
- sassafras leaves
- file powder
- fil powder
About File Powder Edit
Wikipedia Article About File powder on Wikipedia
Filé powder, also called gumbo filé, is a spice made from dried and ground sassafras leaves. It is used in the making of some types of gumbo, a thick Cajun soup. It is sprinkled sparingly over gumbo as a flavoring and thickening agent, giving it a distinctive flavor and texture. Mixing okra and filé is considered a cardinal sin in Louisianan cuisine, as filé was originally an okra substitute when okra was not in season.
Safrole, the main constituent of sassafras oil which is distilled from the bark of sassafras roots, has been shown to cause liver cancer in laboratory rats, and this has caused concern over the use of filé powder. For this reason, major grocery-store spice brands sell a mixture of other herbs as filé powder. However, sassafras leaves contain little or no safrole. Genuine sassafras is available from specialty suppliers and is used extensively in Louisiana.
Cajun gumbo begins with a deep brown roux, to which are added vegetables (pepper, onion, celery, garlic, and tomato) then a seafood stock made from shellfish shells, pepper, bay leaf, and thyme. Okra, which came with African slaves, or sassafras file (dried, ground leaves of the sassafras tree), borrowed from Native American cooks, is added as a thickener. After the stew cooks for two hours or so, loads of fresh shrimp and crabs are added. The gumbo is ladled over buttered rice.