via South China Morning Post, 28 July 2020: Which came first, Asian fish sauce or Roman garum? This article suggests that Ancient Greece and the Roman empire was the source of fish sauce which is now ubiquitous in Southeast Asia.
A wide variety of fish sauces and condiments can be found throughout Asia, adapted to local cooking traditions. According to experts, they are intriguingly similar to an ancient Roman dressing known as garum.
One in particular, Vietnam’s iconic nuoc mam – made with fermented fish, usually anchovies, and salt – bears a resemblance in taste, composition and texture to the garum fish sauce first produced around 100BC, according to food historian Giorgio Franchetti.
He is a scholar of ancient Roman history and the author of the book Dining with the Ancient Romans, which was recently translated into English.
“Vietnam’s nuoc mam can be described as a ‘living fossil’ or ‘living archaeological culinary finding’ that maintains the ancient Roman tradition and flavour,” Franchetti says. “Recent studies have shown that nuoc mam is today the closest existing sauce to the garum of an earlier age.”