a delectable recipe

Catch a bunch of small fish (anchovies and the like). Rinse them. Mix two to three parts fish with one part salt by weight. Then line a large earthenware jar with salt and then fill with the fish. Place a mat over the jar and weigh down with large rocks (this is to keep the fish from floating later on).

Leave the jars in a sunny location for nine months to a year in order to let the fish ferment. Periodically uncover the jar to expose the fish to direct sun (this will help turn the fish into fluid, i.e., to digest them) and will help produce liquid of a superior fragrance. Once the jar has sat around long enough, remove the liquid. There are different ways of doing this, but a particularly good way is to put a spigot on the bottom of the jar, since this way the fluid has to pass through the layers of fish. Strain out the sediment. Leave the liquid in clean jars to air out in the sun for a few weeks to let excess odours dissipate. Then bottle. And enjoy.

In fact, you probably have enjoyed this substance on occasion.

I have four questions:

1) Who came up with the idea of letting a jar of fish rot, okay, ferment, in the sun for a year?

2) And what on earth made whoever did let fish ferment for a year think that it would be a good idea to taste some of the resulting liquid?

3) And when the resulting liquid tasted really vile, what made them think that a little bit added to other food would, in fact, turn out to be really good?

4) What other delectables are waiting to be discovered by somebody brave enough to let various things sit around to various stages of decomposition? I mean, has anybody ever tried, say, the liquid from cow livers mixed with slugs left to ferment six months?


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5 Responses to a delectable recipe

  1. Lisa says:

    You vegetarians certainly choose odd bits of meat to consume when you do indulge…

    And eating fermented fish is done worldwide:

    Iceland’s Hakarl: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%A1karl

    Thai Pla Ra: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pla_ra

  2. fustianist says:

    And the Greeks and Romans had garum: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/wine/garum.html, which actually sounds remarkably similar to Thai fish sauce.

  3. Lisa says:

    BTW, what is the name of whatever you were making? Is it thai fish sauce, or is it different?

  4. fustianist says:

    Sorry for the confusion: we weren’t actually making it. Sydney was just reading up on what it was that made Thai food so good and decided to share the recipe with the world in excruciating detail. No worries, there won’t be a vat of decaying fish welcoming you at our doorstep when you visit!


  5. There are certain foods whose origins are better left mysterious.

    If you do decide to search for more delectables as mentioned in #4, perhaps your cat can help–since she has such unusual tastes.

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