Joined Jun 21, 2002
Last year,I traveled through Campania,and visited Cetara,a fishing village on the Amalfi coast.I purchased a few bottles of Colatura,a modern day[?]version of garum.It was a clear golden liquid,very similar to south asian fish sauce.I was told that this is rarely made commercially any more in Italy,though I visited a home in Naples where the family had their own little crock of fermenting fish.I think that it's delicious,and found that it was mostly being used in light pasta sauces in Campania.Any more information out there?Thanks...
Joined Jul 24, 2001
Hello xray specs and welcome to Chef Talk!

You have started a very interesting subject!

I am preparing a small article about garum to post to the forum soon.
In case you need some infos urgently, send me a PM and I will see what can I do for you :)
Joined Jun 21, 2002
Thanks,no rush,though I'm looking forward to your article.I'm also curious to find an importer of colatura[to the U.S.A.],if they exist.Delfina,in Cetara,did not do import business...
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Another Pastry chef...welcome to cheftalk Xray Specs.

I also look forward to Athenaeus's article.
Joined Dec 30, 1999
Welcom to the Cheftalk Cafe xray specs.


Garum appears to have it's origins as liquid filtered from the bottom of barrels used in the convents to hold anchovies. Garum has also been known in various regions (along with subtle differences of course) to be called Colatura di Alici, Liquamen, and Nam Pla among others. It was often used in place of salt by the Romans. To browse an interesting discussion on it's history, look here.

In case you want to try to make some yourself, here are some recipes for you...

Ancient Garum Recipe
Use fatty fish, for example, sardines, and a well-sealed (pitched) container with a 26-35 quart capacity. Add dried, aromatic herbs possessing a strong flavor, such as dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano, and others, making a layer on the bottom of the container; then put down a layer of fish (if small, leave them whole, if large, use pieces) and over this, add a layer of salt two fingers high. Repeat these layers until the container is filled. Let it rest for seven days in the sun. Then mix the sauce daily for 20 days. After that, it becomes a liquid.
- Gargilius Martialis, De medicina et de virtute herbarum, reprinted from A Taste of Ancient Rome, 3rd century AD.

Modern Garum Recipe
Cook a quart of grape juice, reducing it to one-tenth its original volume. Dilute two tablespoons of anchovy paste in the concentrated juice and mix in a pinch of oregano.
- reprinted from A Taste of Ancient Rome

The better grades of garum were made from prized fish such as mullet, and the less good grades (for slaves, for instance) from the entrails of fish.

As a substitute for garum in modern versions of Roman recipes, Giacosa suggeste nuoc mom, an Asian fish sauce.

Garum Fish Sauce
A collection of oily, fatty fish from the list below:

Place a layer of herbs that have a strong aroma (dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano) into a large pitcher. Remove the bones from the fish and mash them. Place a layer of fish on top of the herbs. Add a leyer of salt to the length of two fingers. Repeat the layers of herbs, fish and salt until he pitcher is filled, Leave for seven days, then turn daily for the next twenty days, by which time it should have liquidised and is then ready for use.

Sometimes called garum, it is the most common flavoring in the Thardic mess. It is a mixture of brine and fish. It gives a subtle flavor to savory dishes. Mix 2 tablespoons strong red wine, 3 oz. salt, 3 anchovies (or other salty fish) and 1 teaspoon dried marjoram in a saucepan or boiling bag. Boil gently for 10 minutes. Cool and strain through muslin. Carry in a wine skin ready for use.

According to M. F. K. Fisher in The Art of Eating , garum is an ancient Roman condiment made from rotting fish guts, similar to the Vietnamese nuocman. The Romans used garum in combination with spices. Fisher quotes the recipe as follows:

Place in a vessel all the insides of fish, both large fish and small. Salt them well. Expose them to the air until they are completely putrid. In a short time a liquid is produced. Drain this off.

Substitutes (check Asian Grocery Stores):
Nuoc Mam
Philippine Baboong
Philippine patis
Tiparos Fish Sauce

While we're waiting for Athenaeus's article, you may find the following writings on the subject insightful:

Glutamate in Foods

Garum also known as Liquamen

Salted Anchovies from Cetara

Amalfi Coast

Roman Food

Dinner was, well, a boar

Joined Jun 21, 2002
Thank you for taking the time to post all the information.When I visiited Cetara last year,I also had a wonderful lunch at Aqua Pazza,where the chef dressed spaghetti with a light sauce of colatura and tomatoes.I snuck a few bottles back to N. Y.,and found it to be very similar to good thai fish sauces,maybe a little more refined.Using the thai fish sauces [with a light touch]in some marinara sauces gives nice results.Interestingly,when I've read the ingredients of some good commercial barbecue sauces,anchovies[and tamarind]are in the mix.
Joined Jun 1, 2001
Don't forget Worcestershire sauce, garum's modern descendant -- complete with anchovies aged to perfection in the barrel!

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