Family vacations are not what you may typically think of when you consider how a Portland food cart such as Mumbo Gumbo comes to be. You might assume that a stint in culinary school would be the inspiration, or a passion for sharing one’s love of cooking, but you’d be excused if you didn’t consider family vacations as the impetus. Except when your family vacations each year in New Orleans.
For Sam Mouzon, every chance his family had to visit New Orleans and the French Quarter, they took advantage. That’s where Sam, a native of Alabama, fell in love with everything that is Cajun cooking. It was that love for the Cajun cuisine that brought about the Mumbo Gumbo food cart. Sam and his business partner Matt Schiffman got their start with the Steak Your Claim food cart.
When they decided to open a second cart, the logical choice was to take advantage of Sam’s southern heritage and passion for Cajun food to create the menu. The variety of flavors, spices and textures combined with the simple approach to Cajun preparations, was tailor made for their second mobile food enterprise. Which, incidentally, is located only ‘two doors down’ from Steak Your Claim on SW Washington.
Top o’ the menu is Mumbo Gumbo’s Jambalaya. Andouille sausage, peppers, onion, and celery served with Cajun rice. This is that classic Cajun comfort food that will warm your heart on those cold and rainy days in Portland (which, in reality, could be during any month of the year). This dish includes a cart-made cornbread muffin that is the perfect compliment to the jambalaya.
In Case You Didn’t Know: Jambalaya is the Cajun term for ham and rice. As the early Cajun culture didn’t have access to the European-style hams, the Cajun’s made do with sausage. This combination of vegetables, sausage, and rice went on to be become the dish that defined the regional cuisine of southern Louisiana.
Mumbo Gumbo’s namesake dish is their, well, gumbo. As Sam puts it, it’s all about the rue. Two hours of constant stirring of the flour and oil combination results in the dark brown base for the gumbo. Mumbo Gumbo uses both Andouille sausage and chicken in their gumbo along with “the holy trinity” of celery, onion, and bell pepper and topped with rice and garnished with green onion.
Deserts at Mumbo Gumbo are on a rotation throughout the year. You’ll find bread pudding, sticky buns, banana cream pie, strawberry short cake, and, if you’re lucky, beignets like they make at New Orleans’s Café Du Monde.
Mumbo Gumbo is located in downtown Portland between SW 9th and 10th on SW Washington. You can find the cart open for business Monday through Saturday from 11 AM till 6 PM.
Listen now as Steven Shomler and Ken Wilson talk with Sam Mouzon and Matt Schiffman of the Mumbo Gumbo food cart and find out just how tough it is to make a rue.