There is more than a bit of science in cooking an awesome Gungo Stew. This Jamaican favorite is a creole culture piece, even iconic for foodies.
It’s all in the details, of course, and the outcome depends on your parish and taste, whether you’re cooking at home or at a restaurant. Regardless, you must start with that most critical ingredient, the coconut milk, store-bought or home grated. It’s the only way to get that creamy mildly cloying flavour in your stew.
Scotch bonnet with a hot bite is also key, as a seasoning and an accent. Thyme is a staple in the stew, but cilantro brings an exotic twist. Most people have their own secret seasoning to spice up their specific taste. We’ve tried rosemary, dill and basil, all with wonderful results. Many people cheat and add vegetable soup mix.
We also lean towards a vegetarian Gungo stew, so we admit some limitations. But adding Shitake mushrooms could give you a nicer flavor than all those meat parts many people prefer.
To give a Gungo stew some weight you must include spinners, and we personally like the corn meal variety. Cassava spinners can also give your stew some personality. Pumpkin adds a tasty flavor and carrots are often the vegetable of choice.
Pay close attention to your gravy. Its consistency and viscosity are critical. Certainly, there must be enough to wet your rice or yam and banana. But if it’s too watery you feel like you’re having soup.
You want the green Gungo for a really good stew. It is milkier and more succulent than dried Gungo and certainly not as nutty and starchy. The green Gungo gives the stew a fresher and more robust taste, both helpful in any dish.
So what do you wash it down with? Coconut water gets the nod from us. Like the stew, itself it is subtle in taste and doesn’t conflict. But a tangy grapefruit juice brings an exciting contrast, or an ice cold Red Stripe if the hour is right.