Filé powder

Filé powder

[fi-ley, fee-ley]
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 Creole soup/stew. It is sprinkled sparingly over gumbo as a seasoning and a thickening agent, giving it a distinctive flavor and texture. 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. However it has been disputed (Duke 2002) that the amount safrole in leaves, tea and root beer is health threatening.

However, according to FoodReference.com sassafras leaves are "now treated commercially to produce a safrole-free product" and are safe for consumption. The source also notes that "[t]he safrole free extract has, unfortunately, an inferior flavor" when compared to Filé powder containing safrole.

Filé is mentioned in the chorus of Hank Williams' hit "Jambalaya".

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