Noma’s garum: our take on an ancient culinary tradition of umami-rich fermented sauces. Our garums have been the key to our success for Noma’s vegetarian and vegan menus, and we’re starting with one of our favorites: Smoked Mushroom Garum.
This garum is the first of a series of future pantry products that we hope will do the same for you as they’ve done for us: help inspire and create greener, more delicious meals at home.
A delicacy in ancient times, garum was originally fermented fish sauce made all around the Mediterranean basin. The tradition dates back thousands of years, when it was considered among the most valuable ingredients for the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans — a table sauce condiment as widely used as ketchup or fish sauce nowadays.
Garum was made only with small gutted fish like sardines and mackerels, brine, and time to ferment (since the process could take almost one year!), where microorganisms and enzymes present in the fish’s guts were crucial to the chemical process from where its robust flavors come from, breaking down the flesh and turning it into a thick liquid.
The recipes changed over the centuries and the regions (with the adoption of various aromatic herbs, spices, or even wine) as well as its preparation method, of course.
Our modern adaptation
For almost two decades, we’ve been studying and employing the process of making garum — using ingredients from our land to extract the most profound, exciting flavors from plant- and animal-based ingredients (from chicken wings to mushrooms, and all kinds of vegetables).
Where traditional recipes rely on the naturally occurring enzymes in fish intestines to break down the fish into a sauce, we use koji to recreate a similar process. By using koji, we can then experiment with a wider range of high-protein ingredients found in nature, using the same process but with different ingredients to extract umami-rich flavors from them, yet less tangy and less salty.
We realized that there was an opportunity also to expand the role of garum to other kingdoms, such as vegetables or even fungi, to produce powerful flavors as well. Koji also proved to be very advantageous (and faster) to create sauces that were both unique in flavor and still delicate.
The process begins with pressing the raw ingredient, mixing that in salt and water, fermenting from 6 to 10 weeks (depending on the ingredient), then straining for the final product: a powerful, savory liquid seasoning.
Our Smoked Mushroom Garum
Lightly smoked garum is a plant-based option full of earthy, fruity, complex flavors and a ton of umami. We crush organic mushrooms with salt and rice koji, let it brew for 6-8 weeks before cold smoking and bottling.
The umami-rich sauce can be used as a versatile seasoning for all kinds of food — much like one might use soy sauce or fish sauce today. It's a fantastic way to add a lot of flavor when sautéing vegetables, for example, but can be used in a myriad of different ways, from soups to sauces, and even cocktails — here are some of our recipes to use it.