Panderina Soumas is a chef, an educator and an entrepreneur. Folks who regularly attend festivals and events in Shreveport-Bossier may know Soumas primarily for her line of packaged Creole food products including Red Beans~n~Rice™, Creole `Ya ~`Ya-Yam Salsa™ and Creole Gombo Mix™. Many local food lovers keep a package of her Creole Explosion Seasoning Mix™, a powerfully fragrant mixture of Creole spices, on hand. Like Soumas Heritage Creole Creations on Facebook.
Soumas sells her products online and stocks several of her more popular items at The Agora Borealis in downtown Shreveport. From her home in Bossier City, she ships products and gift baskets to homesick Louisianans all over the country. Whenever the first cold snap of fall arrives in Northwest Louisiana, as it has recently, I start to crave Louisiana comfort food staples like red beans, gumbo and jambalaya. Inevitably, I turn to “Chef Pansou” for a product or a piece of advice.
“None of us like to admit it, but we do live in an age where sometimes, we need to cut corners,” Soumas said when I asked whether a packaged gumbo mix could replicate a made-from-scratch roux. “Before I had my own gumbo mix, I thought there’d be no way to successfully translate the flavor of a true Creole gumbo into a mix, but I feel that I’ve found a way to do it.”
Soumas’s gumbo mix can be used for chicken and sausage or seafood gumbos. The mix contains a measured amount of her potent Creole Explosion Seasoning Mix™. There may be no exact substitute for a an oil-and-flour roux browned slowly on a stove top, but then again, everyone’s gotta start somewhere. That’s how I see Soumas’s mixtures and spices, as well as the history lessons written on the packaging: they provide a foothold to help cooks explore a centuries-old way of cooking.
“If you’d like to use a mix instead of making your roux from scratch, consider doing your own stock,” Soumas said. “Make your own chicken stock if you’re doing a chicken and sausage gumbo, or make your own seafood gumbo stock using shrimp shells. It adds a real depth of flavor.”
If you’re going to be cooking Creole this fall, consider supporting a local food entrepreneur by shopping with Soumas’s online store or picking up her products at The Agora Borealis. With food-filled holiday celebrations just around the corner, Soumas’s products also make unique gifts.
If you enjoy local food reviews, download the new edition of Eat Here: A Food Lover’s Guide to Shreveport-Bossier.