Wish me luck. I’m about to embark on recreating the Roasted Chicken Wing Garum that is a party piece at Noma in Copenhagen. I’m scaling down the portions required by the Fermentation Lab of the global game-changing three-star restaurant and adapting my own less hi-tech equipment for the experiment.
They’ve allowed me to share the recipe from their Noma Guide to Fermentation (Artisan, £30), seeing how keen I was to explore a culinary technique handed down since Roman times and given a new lease of life by Noma founder Rene Redzepi and David Zilber, his head of fermentation for five years.
Read my ‘Anchovy is of the Essence – Garum, Coltura d’Alici and Nam Pla’ for a primer in my nascent discipleship and desire to enhance the flavours of my cooking with the funkiest of fermented sauces but without the traditional fish. https://www.neilsowerby.co.uk/2021/07/02/anchovy-is-of-the-essence-garum-colatura-dalici-and-nam-pla/ Now comes the hard, stinky part. I’ve purchased my chicken bones and wings and have adapted a rice cooker to stand in for a fermentation chamber, modifying the amount of raw materials to fit.
I’ve cheated by buying in organic pearl barley koji (from Amazon UK); next time I’ll start from scratch, but first I’ll have to acquire a koji tray. Another boy’s gastro toy, my wife sighs.
For the uninitiated, Koji is cooked rice that has been inoculated with Aspergillus oryzae, a mold that’s widespread in Japan. The mold releases enzymes that ferment the rice by decomposing its carbohydrates and proteins. In this case the process is applied to barley (barley miso is made this way).
• Wish me luck over the coming weeks. I’ve followed the authors’ instructions to carefully peruse more detailed instructions in the ‘Beef Garum’ section but, with my success rate in creating basic kimchi not of the highest, I’m going to be on tenterhooks. All of a ferment, you might say.
Roasted Chicken Wing Garum
Makes about 1.5 litres
2kg chicken bones; 3kg chicken wings; 450g Pearl Barley Koji; 480 grams non-iodised salt.
Roasting brings a lot of rich, fully developed flavour to this garum, meaning it needs only about a month of fermentation to coax out more umami. If we were to ferment this chicken garum as long as we do beef or squid garum, it would lose its subtlety and complexity.
Place the bones in a large pot and fill with water just to cover—about three litres. Bring the water to a boil, skimming away any impurities that float to the surface as it comes to temperature. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the stock for three hours.
In the meantime, heat the oven to 180°C/355°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the chicken wings on the lined sheet and roast them for 40 to 50 minutes, tossing several times while cooking to ensure that they get an even, dark browning. Remove the wings from the oven and let them cool down. Weigh out 2 kilograms of the roasted wings and use a cleaver to chop them into small pieces. Strain the chicken stock through a fine-mesh sieve and allow it to cool.
Pulse the koji in a food processor to break it up into small pieces. Put the chopped chicken wings, koji, salt, and 1.6 kilograms of the chicken stock in a 3-litre fermentation vessel of your choice and stir to combine thoroughly. Scrape down the inner sides of the container with gloved hands or a rubber spatula and lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the liquid. Cover the container with a lid; screw it on slightly less than completely tight if it’s a screw cap or leave it slightly ajar in one corner if it’s a snap lid. Ferment the garum in a fermentation chamber at 60°C/140°F or in an electric rice cooker on “keep warm” for four weeks.
Every day for the first week, use a clean spoon or ladle to skim off as much fat as you can, then stir the garum and cover again. After the first week, skim and stir once a week.
Pass the garum through a fine-mesh sieve, and then again through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Allow the liquid to settle and skim off any fat that floats to the surface.
Pour the garum into bottles or another covered container. The garum is very stable and will keep well in the fridge for months. You can also freeze it for longer storage without any negative effects, but note that because of the high salt content, it probably won’t freeze completely solid.
When first tasting roasted chicken wing garum, almost every Noma chef mutters the same word: “Ramen.” It’s true, this garum possesses some of the same deep, meaty tones of a great bowl of ramen. A splash poured into a basic kombu and katsuobushi dashi makes for a convincing cheat. And if you’ve made a more proper ramen broth, a touch of garum will help kick the flavor up to eleven.
Coat cashews (or any nut of your choice) with melted butter and spread onto a baking sheet or oven- safe pan. Roast in a 160°C/320°F oven until they become golden brown and fragrant. Remove them from the oven and mix in a couple of tablespoons of chicken wing garum. Don’t add so much garum that the liquid pools on the pan. All the garum should be absorbed by the nuts and evaporated by the heat. You don’t want the cashews to become soggy. Once they cool, they should still be crunchy, with a savoury, salty crust.
Excerpted from Foundations of Flavor: The Noma Guide to Fermentation by Rene Redzepi and David Zilber (Artisan Books). Photographs by Evan Sung.