Cuisine.Cooking

Garum, Nam Pla and Worcestershire Sauce – Ancient and Modern Cuisine

Garum and Nam Pla are fermented fish sauces very popular at their time: Garum was particular famous in the Ancient Roman world (used as early as the fifth century BC) while very expensive and Nam Pla is probably also famous but used particular in the current Thai, Filipino, Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian cuisine and is nowadays relatively cheap“.

As a side note and unknown to many, the original Worcestershire sauce is a related product because it is fermented and contains anchovies. Of course, fake sauces might exist nowadays.

Today, nobody knows exactly how garum was tasted and the real production process of garum has only been reproduced in ways scientist think it has been made originally. Nam Pla has also many different flavors but every Thai knows how it tastes. Exact commercial recipes might be hidden, though.

Garum was as expensive as the best perfumeries used in those days and was very nutritious. It was transported in Amphorae stacked in stables during transports while of course today’s Nam Pla’s is available in small glass bottles or even plastic ones for larger quantities.

Garum was even distributed to Roman legions but because of its costs, it was diluted with water (hydrogarum). Garum itself was often mixed with wine, oenogarum, vinegar, black pepper, honey or oil and served to dishes similar as it is with todays Nam Pla in another time and place. Nam Pla probably was never very expensive.

Both fermented fish sauce condiments were part of a daily cuisine although garum was probably too expensive for the poorer population. They might have used a cheaper or different version. Nam Pla on the other hand is used daily in every household in Thailand.

Since I do not like fish at all, I’m the least one concerned with its taste but when you are visiting Thailand you’ll take Nam Pla with every lunch or dinner..if you like this or not. Perhaps that addition makes the Thai cuisine so famous!

garum, hydrogarum, nam pla, worcestershire sauce, fermented fish sauce, ancient cuisine, roman, thai, thailand, italy

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