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A Little Fish Sauce


Egry
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As probably most are on this forum I’m absolutely fascinated with Roman history and culture. Years back when I did a bit of internet ‘research’ on what culinary specialties the Roman’s had that still exist today it seemed that relatively few dishes they ate still are still made (happy to be corrected if I’m wrong). 
 

However, one ingredient that seemed to dominate was Garum. Garum fascinated me, it was on the tables of a Roman household like salt and pepper is on most of ours today. I searched and searched but couldn’t find any current makers of this special ingredient. Asian style fish sauce is supposedly similar but not the same. 

Not to long ago I stumbled across a maker in Portugal that claims to make Garum using their interpretation of the ancient Roman style. My Portuguese is not good but from what I could tell it seemed that they are making it very near to the site of an ancient Roman Garum factory, which likely won’t change the taste but gives it that added cool factor.

They arrived in the mail yesterday. I still haven’t tried it on anything yet. I’m saving the first few drops for a home made Caesar salad dressing;)

48DE062D-40C7-4ACD-A4B4-14FC8C2939F9.jpeg.2dcb1715592481e5f9ebf108361e985d.jpeg
 

Here is the only coin I have with a fish on it ( I know dolphins are not fish). Not the best condition but still a nice type.

BE268FCC-9C87-4972-B57B-B9217E85E923.jpeg.fb8545d6504b4d6b914219e20f9e6cbb.jpeg

Please share any ‘fish’ coins, or anything you know about ancient Roman food! 

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Here's one with a tunny fish.

[IMG]
Greek AE 17
Mysia, Cyzicus, c. 400 BC - 280 BC or later 4.02 g; 17.3 mm
Obv: Head of Persephone, right.
Rev: KY/ZI either side of tripod; tunny fish below; plectrum in field, right.
Refs: BMC 15.37,136; Sear Greek 3861; c.f. SNG Cop 62.

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@jdmKYVery clean dolphin ‘fish’ coin!

@Roman Collector Nice tunny fish! But I have a serious question for you. What is a tunny fish? They are in a lot of ancients especially with the very early gold coins from Cyzicus. This may sound stupid, is it a Tuna? 

 

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I cannot imagine, without a definitive recipe being found, and considering it was made by thousands of producers across the empire, it would be much different than Thai Nam pla. That is what they have used for untold centuries. Basic garam, from what I have read, is similar. Layer in small fish like sardines, layer of salt, layer of fish, salt, repeat until full. Then put weight on lid and wait for fermentation, strain, and use.

 

Please, I am curious, get a good bottle of Nam pla and let me know if it is similar.

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34 minutes ago, Egry said:

@jdmKYVery clean dolphin ‘fish’ coin!

@Roman Collector Nice tunny fish! But I have a serious question for you. What is a tunny fish? They are in a lot of ancients especially with the very early gold coins from Cyzicus. This may sound stupid, is it a Tuna? 

 

Yes, I believe so. 

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1 hour ago, Medoraman said:

I cannot imagine, without a definitive recipe being found, and considering it was made by thousands of producers across the empire, it would be much different than Thai Nam pla. That is what they have used for untold centuries. Basic garam, from what I have read, is similar. Layer in small fish like sardines, layer of salt, layer of fish, salt, repeat until full. Then put weight on lid and wait for fermentation, strain, and use.

 

Please, I am curious, get a good bottle of Nam pla and let me know if it is similar.

Yep, I’m sure the recipe is similar. I heard it’s just a flavour enhancer like MSG. 

Can you give me a brand of a top quality Asian fish sauce? I’ll compare and report back.
 

Likely these guys in Portugal would have more influence from an Asian fish sauce than an ancient Roman one. But like you said, the recipe is simple, almost so simple that anyone one can stumble upon it. 

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25 minutes ago, Kali said:

I'm curious what the shelf life of it is, consider a lot goes along way.

I’d say due to its salt content it should be right for a long while 

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You should check out the following channel on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/c/tastinghistory). Max Miller has posted videos about Garum and Roman dishes he has prepared.  He tries to make the dishes as authentic as possible with the ingredients he sources and is very honest about the outcome (positive or negative) wrt. taste. Its a series that I enjoy watching. Here is the episode on Garum:

 

Here is a fish coin to celebrate your garum...

Imperial Chola: Raja Raja I (ca. 1007) AE Kasu (Biddulph-21)

Obv: King half seated, with raised arm on right; Devanagari legend beneath raised arm; श्री राजा राजा (Sri Raja Raja)
Rev: Standing man, with lamp on left and fish on right, representing the the Pandya conquest

Biddulph-21.jpg

Edited by quant.geek
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Interesting, I hadn't heard of Garum, but it's fun to learn about such little details of ancient life.

And it does seem that dolphins are the most common non-fish "fish" to be found unless you have tunny coins from Kyzikos. (I've got the diobols somewhere but no good photos.)

Here are a few of my Greek dolphins in different arrangements, some in secondary positions as totems, etc.:

(Euboia, Karystos ; Taras ; Thessaly, Skotussa ; Amphipolis after 325 BCE; Saguntum [after 2nd Punic?]; Syracuse, mid-5th BCE)

image.jpeg.bb8691d5d9d5c8603b4449e33ea73c34.jpegimage.jpeg.990e370ad9cef4fcb527e7f9d27b9446.jpegimage.jpeg.8f38b1888baea1ab984f102d6cb3a2bc.jpegimage.png.c016101b8847d9ba8a7ae1da5af173dd.pngimage.png.9aadf9fc42c87cb570ffb15c7512e3ff.pngimage.jpeg.56f59976d3a791ff24abb073944df9d4.jpeg

For those who aren't squeamish, I did find a video (0:11s)  of my pet opossum when he was a youngster (RIP Piglet) eating the head of a Tuna fish for a snack! Piglet was a big fan of Garum!  https://imgur.com/gallery/CiWvB4Y

 

Edited by Curtis JJ
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4 hours ago, quant.geek said:

You should check out the following channel on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/c/tastinghistory). Max Miller has posted videos about Garum and Roman dishes he has prepared.  He tries to make the dishes as authentic as possible with the ingredients he sources and is very honest about the outcome (positive or negative) wrt. taste. Its a series that I enjoy watching. Here is the episode on Garum:

 

Here is a fish coin to celebrate your garum...

Imperial Chola: Raja Raja I (ca. 1007) AE Kasu (Biddulph-21)

Obv: King half seated, with raised arm on right; Devanagari legend beneath raised arm; श्री राजा राजा (Sri Raja Raja)
Rev: Standing man, with lamp on left and fish on right, representing the the Pandya conquest

Biddulph-21.jpg

Awesome! Thanks, I’ll check this series out. 

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It isn't that clear, but there's an upwards tunny fish to the right of the boar forepart on the obverse of this 10 mm. AR diobol from Mysia, Kyzikos, dating to the 5th Century BCE:

image.jpeg.90a76f3506e1e0e7b79d5c482ca302d9.jpeg

And there's a sturgeon swimming left under the griffin forepart on the reverse of this AE 19 mm. from Cimmerian Bosporos, Pantikapaion, ca. 320-310 BCE, minted under Perisad I:

image.jpeg.dc973ef4aaa55da38e20b530031e9998.jpeg

 

Since I've posted a couple of real fish, there's no need to post any of my dolphins, who would all be outraged at being categorized as such!  Look how angry this one is at the very thought:

image.jpeg.b97ace151a6018e42aa8413532edf137.jpeg

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On 7/30/2022 at 12:17 AM, Egry said:

Yep, I’m sure the recipe is similar. I heard it’s just a flavour enhancer like MSG. 

Can you give me a brand of a top quality Asian fish sauce? I’ll compare and report back.
 

Likely these guys in Portugal would have more influence from an Asian fish sauce than an ancient Roman one. But like you said, the recipe is simple, almost so simple that anyone one can stumble upon it. 

Sorry for late reply. My wife says three crabs, MegaChef or Red Boat are all really quality brands if you want to compare.

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