Gumbo Hut in Tokyo serves an apt adaptation of one of Louisiana’s most famous dishes
Stars and Stripes March 16, 2023
The weekend before Mardi Gras, my cousin and I decided to check out Gumbo Hut Shioya to get a little taste of our southern Louisiana home right outside the main gate of Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo.
My skepticism led me to first try one of the eatery's to-go cups of gumbo for 400 yen, or about $3. What I got was a decent preview of the main attraction, albeit a little oily, with little meat, in a lidless container.
Luckily, it was a different story when we dined in. The English-speaking chef-owner has done his research and the outcome is pretty good. He even picked up that we were from Louisiana (he said our orders of the delicious chicory coffee were a sign) and told us about how he’d spent time traveling around Louisiana and Mississippi.
My more cautious cousin decided to make a meal of a few sides — mashed potatoes and gravy, Cajun corn and mac and cheese. I went all in with an order of gumbo with shrimp and a side of fried okra.
I know a few things about gumbo, mainly eating it. At home, my Louisiana-style cooking ability includes red beans and rice, dirty rice and shrimp etouffee -- and stops there. I don’t have the patience for a dark roux, which requires almost an hour of cooking a one-to-one ratio of flour and fat (butter, lard or oil) until it’s a dark chocolate brown. If you don’t stir it enough, it burns and you have to start over.
The folks at Gumbo Hut Shioya have the patience and the time; the gumbo has a deep nutty flavor in the background that can only be achieved with a dark roux. The good news for me is that they sell their refrigerated roux, called a base, on their website.
The dark roux also serves perhaps an unintended purpose. It gives the gumbo a look similar to curry rice, which may draw in local taste buds used to that roux-based dish while keeping the flavor authentic to its Southern roots.
I’m also particular about the ingredients, too. My general preference is a Cajun-style seafood gumbo filled with plenty of shrimp, crab claws, crab legs and even crawfish tails. I want to dip that big ladle down to the bottom of that Magnalite pot and it come up heavy! So yes, being served a bowl with fewer than seven shrimp in it didn’t quite hit the spot.
My cousin enjoyed her meal of sides, especially the cheesiness of the mac and cheese, and after trying a few bites of my gumbo agreed it was good but needed a little more heat and more shrimp.
The owner even had some of the Louisiana brand hot sauce if you want to make your selection spicier. I declined as I’m a Crystal Hot Sauce fan.
I sadly didn’t get to try any of the po-boys on offer, but hope to in a future visit. Perhaps I can get a few coworkers to join me in letting the good times roll.
Gumbo Hut Shioya
Location: 2477-5 Fussaninomiya, Fussa, Tokyo 197-0014
Hours: Hours tend to vary. Call ahead or check the restaurant’s Instagram account, gumbo.hut.shioya.
Prices: 650 yen to 1200 yen for most entrees. Sides start at 350 yen. Non-alcoholic drinks are 350 yen and alcoholic drinks start at 550 yen.
Directions: About a 10-minute walk from the main gate at Yokota Air Base.
Information: Phone: 042-849-0391; Online: gumbohuts.base.shop and gumbo.hut.shioya on Instagram.