Under the name 621 Ferments, chefs Merijn and Maarten of restaurant Choux in Amsterdam make their natural flavor enhancers: N°621 garum.
Garum finds its origins in the Carthaginian Empire and later became an important ingredient for Romans. Fish leftovers were pickled with salt to ferment under the sun. The enzymes in the intestines of the fish played a major role in the transformation process: fresh fish was digested by those enzymes and the outcome was a huge flavor bomb.
Nowadays, we can see the remnants of this process in the Italian fish sauce called ‘colatura di alici’. The production process of the much better known fish sauce from Southeast Asian cuisine shows great similarities to that of Garum.
For their natural flavor enhancers 621 Ferments uses a process developed by the Nordic Food Lab, a project led by Rene Redzepi, the founder of Noma restaurant. By adding the fungal culture aspergillus oryzae, also known as koji, to the fermentation process, the same enzymatic action as with the intestines of fish is created. Other ingredients can also be used, in this case meat or mushrooms. Incidentally, this fungal culture is at the base of better-known fermentations such as miso, soy sauce and sake.
By deliberately selecting residual streams such as meat trimmings or mushroom overproduction (no longer suitable for sale), Merijn and Maarten ensure that these do not end up in the trash, but are upcycled into an umami bomb that makes every dish tastier.
The garums are gluten-free, versatile, and can be used as an alternative to soy sauce or Maggi. The mushroom garum is vegan. Use them in sauces, dressings or broths, in pasta, risotto, stews, marinades, or as a brine for mushrooms. They will make anything taste better!