Sunday, October 3, 2010

Garum Colatura

In the ongoing discussion of garum, I thought I'd post this from another blog I read, The Kitchn. I've copied the article, and the comments.
Is anyone interested in trying this stuff out?


Garum Colatura: Ancient Roman Fish Sauce!

2010-07-20-Garum2.jpgThe people of Southern Italy and Southern Asia may be far apart, geographically, but when it comes to fermented fish, they have a lot in common. Both Thai cooks and ancient Roman chefs relied on a certain salty, powerfully fishy liquid dredged off fermenting anchovies. They added this to dishes for savor and umami. The Thai call it fish sauce (nam pla); the ancient Romans called it garum. And it's still around, more or less.

Have you heard of garum, the ancient Roman fish sauce, made from what seeped out of the barrels of fermenting anchovies and other fish? It's still made today, although it probably isn't as pungent. It is sold in little glass vials, sometimes under the label anchovy extract or syrup, whose instructions advise you to toss it with pasta, garlic, red pepper, and olive oil.
I had been hearing a lot about colatura, and I was dying to try it. I picked up a little bottle at Zingerman's, and dashed it over pasta. Delicious! It does indeed have a fishy smell, but when you spread a tablespoon or two through a whole batch of pasta it just gives it an elusive savory, briny flavor, which complements summer basil and tomatoes, or simple garlic, in a beautifully wild and addictive set of flavors. I am hoarding the rest of the bottle, saving it for the best pastas and simple dinners at home.
Obviously this isn't a vegetarian product, but if you are simply trying to eat less meat, or use meat more for flavor than for substance, this would be a fantastic addition to your cupboard.
Its rather shocking price, though, has made me wonder about using just straight up fish sauce in pasta. Anyone tried this?
Read more: Essence of Anchovy From the Amalfi Coast, by Melissa Clark - An excellent introduction to garum and its modern equivalent.
Find it: Garum Colatura, $17 at Zingerman's
(Images: Faith Durand)


    1. I've had that bottle in my fridge for almost a year and never touched it. Seems like something I'd love though!
      posted by mangabanga on July 20th 2010 at 1:18pm
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    2. Faith, fish sauce on pasta. Yes, frequently. I am a fan of anchovies and sometimes when I'm out or don't want to open a whole can, a shot of nam pla is a great substitute. For that matter I find nam pla is a welcome addition in any Italian 'red sauce' and is such a subtile compliment that professed anchovy haters are pleased with the result. I always have the Three Crabs brand on hand and although I am pleased with it I confess I have not tried many other brands.

      For those who have limited experience with fish sauce I would advise against judging the results with the smell straight out of the bottle - using fish sauce for the first time is sort of an act of Faith. Sorry, I'm sure you are quite weary with puns lithe that.
      posted by phoxx on July 20th 2010 at 1:31pm
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    3. $17 a bottle, Ouch. Three Crabs is less than 4 bucks for 24 oz.
      posted by phoxx on July 20th 2010 at 1:36pm
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    4. Re: Fish sauce on pasta: I second phoxx - it's great for pasta.

      I use nam pla (Tiparos brand) in puttanesca sauce and caesar dressing when I don't have anchovies on hand, and in pretty much anything else that needs a little extra umami. It's also key in Thai curries.

      Nam pla is pretty forgiving stuff - try maybe 1/4 tsp at a time, tasting as you go - you'll start to taste an additional layer of flavor long before you start to specifically taste fish sauce. It's cheap and lasts forever. Great stuff.
      posted by abbie13 on July 20th 2010 at 11:43pm
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