Garum, a recipe lost in time

Salted fish factory at Rector's office, Malaga
Salted fish factory at Rector’s office, Malaga

Garum is a well-known word in Malaga and, more or less, along the old Roman Empire. It was the name of a highly appreciated sauce used in old times, by Phoenicians and Romans mostly. But, as the books burned at the library of Alexandria, or the Colossus of Rhodes, is it also a recipe lost in time…  or not?

Spanish researchers have brought back to life this especial ingredient, but, before we talk about that, let me introduce you the garum. Taking back to the first millennium B.C., people who lived by the Mediterranean Sea used to go fishing. At that time, there was a necessity of keeping stored the fish that wasn’t consumed. The solution was to bury it under layers of salt, after having it cleaned of all its guts.

Ancient people have proved they were much more environmentally minded than we are nowadays, and all those debris from the fish cleaning wasn’t wasted. They reused it, mixed with it with spices, vinegar, and small fishes (yes, the delicious “chanquetes” you can still eat here in Malaga!). They put that mixture in a sealed jar, it was left a period of time as if you were making wine and, Voilà, here we have the garum.

Garum was so highly appreciated that they used it as a condiment for any meal, as soy sauce is in the Asian cuisine. And you know what, one of the most famous was the one made here, at the coast of Malaga. They sent tons of this precious sauce to Rome, in thousands of ceramic jars carried on vessels. In fact, if you have been to Rome, you may know that one of the seven hills in Rome is man-made, because all of those ceramic jars piled through centuries.

This sauce was one of the main incomes for Malaga, and nowadays they want to get profit of Garum again. And they may be right. After several tries of getting this sauce back to life, it looks like they have the perfect blend: rest of the original sauce preserved in jars from old Pompeii, an old recipe found in a Swiss monastery from the Xth century, and a detailed investigation like in the CSI TV series. Some researchers from the University of Cadiz have finally made the miracle.

Library at the Swiss abbey of St. Gallen, courtesy by
Library at the Swiss abbey of St. Gallen, courtesy by

Their intention is giving us the opportunity to have that roman taste in our dishes lost so long ago. They have turned into a company named “Flor de garum” (Garum flower), and they offer a thicker version, called mousse of garum, and another one, more liquid. They have just started at the end of 2013 with their base at the port of Cadiz. We wish them the best of luck!

Recipe lost of Garum sauce
Fish dressed with Garum sauce, courtesy by “Flor de Garum”

In one of our Malaga tours, specifically at Le Grand Tour, we show you several places where they made this special sauce, as its production was very much extended over Malaga. In fact, you will be able to meet and old Garum factory.

Maybe it gets fashionable again and we end up eating like Romans, even doing it sidewards! Who knows!

If you want to know more about “Flor de Garum”, just visit to their page (they only have info in Spanish at the moment)

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