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Salted Fish in a Day
Wild Food Lab
Making Garum (Fish Sauce) - PART 1
I love Asian cuisine and I'm completely addicted to fish sauce. For those who don't know, fish sauce is made from, well...fermented fish and for the longest time, I was really repulsed by the idea of actually doing it. I was associating fermenting meat with rotting meat somehow.
I could not be more wrong.
There is a long history behind fish sauce. Presently it is mostly made in Southest Asia and used widely in their cuisine. If you go to a Thai restaurant, you'll usually see it on your table. But if you study history, you will find that fish sauce was extensively used by the romans and it was a major industry. The romans called their fish sauce GARUM. In Asia you will find it under other names such as nước mắm (Vietnam), nam pla (Thailand) and jeotgal (Korea)
What is so special about fish sauce? Think of it as a flavor enhancer. Fish sauce can enhance and harmonize the flavors of a dish, turning something good into a spectacular culinary experience.
I plan to make a lot of fish sauces but I started with the most simple recipe...Garum and you really just need two ingredients: Fish and Salt. How simple is that?
To make Garum you will need some FRESH fatty fish such as sardines or mackerel and sea salt (you can also use kosher salt).
The idea is to mix the fish and salt together. Enzimes already present in the fish entrails will start digesting and dissolving the proteins turning the whole thing into a liquid brown mush which you then filter to obtain a clear liquid.
The ratio between salt and dish is important. Not enough salt and your fish could spoil. The amount of salt also dictate the amount of time you will be fermenting the fish. Asian fish sauce have a ratio (per weight) ranging from 1 to 3 or even 1 to 1. The extra salt in the Asian fish sauce slows the fermentation and sometimes it is fermented for up to 18 months. Study on Roman fish sauces which were found in old shipwrecks and preserved in amphorea indicated a ratio of 1 to 7 and were designed to be ready after a few weeks of fermentation.
I'm a bit nervous with the ratio of 1 part salt and 7 parts fish from a food safety perspective so I opted for the middle and used a ration of 1 to 5.
I purchased fresh local sardines so my next step was to cut the fish in small pieces and mix it with the salt
I placed the mixture of salt and fish in a bucket (food grade plastic bucket is appropriate) and for the first 4 weeks, churned the mixture twice a week.
After 4 weeks, the flesh is starting to dissolve as you can see on the photo (left)
My garum is presently 2 months old and is turning into a brown mush but the fish is not fully dissolved yet. I estimate it could take anywhere between 4 and 6 months to be ready.
By the way, the smell is really not that bad.
I will continue to update this section and post new photos. Once the garum is ready I will filter the mixture to obtain the fish sauce.
So stay tuned and come back to this page.