Skip to comments.How a Ship Full of Fish Helped Recreate an Ancient Fish Sauce
Posted on 03/06/2012 10:18:22 AM PST by Renfield
If youre like me, the last post on the convoluted origins of our favorite fermented condimentketchupprobably left you wondering: What is the difference between Roman garum than modern Thai fish sauce?
What little I know comes from an experiment performed by Sally Grainger, author of Cooking Apicus, recounted in the book Cured, Fermented and Smoked Foods. Grainger is a British chef and an experimental archeologist. She looked at studies on fish sauce amphorae (ceramic vessels) from archeological sites in Spain and North Africa. One of her more fascinating sources comes from a 2,000-year-old shipwreck discovered off the coast of Grado, Italy. The ship was full of fishmaybe even live ones. Italian researchers found that the vessel contained what amounts to a giant fish tanka hydraulic system capable of transporting 440 pounds of live parrotfish (Scarus ssp.) from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. The wreck also contains 600 amphorae, some with well-preserved fish sauce inside.
Using these studies and a recipe from Geoponica, a 10th century collection of agricultural lore, as a guide, Grainger added salted sardines (Pilchardus sardines) and sprats (Sprattus sprattus) to barrels, put the barrels in a greenhouse, and covered the tops with cardboard. Then she waited two months. Whats surprising, Grainger found, was that the recreated ancient fish sauce appeared to be a lot less salty than its modern Southeast Asian counterparts, with just as much protein. Salt slows down the enzymatic process, so industrial-scale fish sauces todaywhat you might otherwise think of cheaply made fast foodactually take longer to make than the ancient brews. In other words, this old, slow food fermented faster.
On one final note, for those of you interested in doing some fishy home-brewing, Ken Albaba, author of the forthcoming Lost Arts of Hearth and Home, told me he made a batch last year. Albaba said it was fun and, moreover, Not stinky in the least. Almost pure umami in fact.
Ancient condiment ping.
I wouldn’t mind tasting this ancient stuff.
Ya know how shrimp usually taste different at a Chinese restaurant than at home? Marinate your raw shrimp in some rice cooking wine, with a bit of fish sauce.
A precursor of Worchestershire sauce (which is made with fermented anchovies).
nouc mam, excellent on Vietnamese dog meat sandwiches!
Nouc mam? Try the prik num pla!
“Marinate your raw shrimp in some rice cooking wine, with a bit of fish sauce.”
Sounds delicious! Do you cook the shrimp after marinating, and if so, what cooking method?
How do I get on the ancient condiment ping list?
“Do you cook the shrimp after marinating, and if so, what cooking method?”
Stir fry the shrimp, and remove from wok. Stir fry any veggies that you like. Add the shrimp back in at the last minute. Serve. It doesn’t take much fish sauce to really do the marinade. Marinade them for about 15/20 minutes, stirring occasionally. I use Shao Hsing Rice Cooking Wine. Garnish with some chopped up green onion stalks. I like the dish made with Baby Bok Choy.
Should add that you don’t need much marinade. Just a little. Don’t drown the shrimp, just get ‘em wet, and stir once in a while.
This sounds great. Will be giving it a try.
You may have to experiment a bit, to get the right combination in the marinade. I just do it by instinct, cuz I’ve been cooking Chinese style for 45 years. I prefer to make my own Black Bean Garlic Sauce. Chinese lady friends,,,, etc,,,,... I couldn’t make a roast beef to save my life! Can’t cook Western/American style at all.
It took me almost forty years to forget the taste of that crap. Thanks for reminding me.
|GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach|
Not sure if that is a real ping list, but SunkenCiv’s ancient history ping list is one of the highlights of FR, IMHO.
You did not have the real nunc mam from Phu Quoc Island.
The real uncut stuff was great. It was after it was sent to the mainland that it was cut with god only knows what.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.