A fun part of my pre-pandemic life was thinking of all the restaurants that I would never have the pleasure of eating and then feeling awful. Maybe they were too expensive, too difficult to reserve, or just too far away. Then there was Noma, Chef René Redzepi’s award-winning Copenhagen restaurant. It was a trifecta: remote, really expensive, and impossible to get in. But now, for those of us not fortunate enough to fly to Denmark for a 20 course meal, even without a global pandemic holding us back, the Noma Projects branch of the restaurant is ready to go Line of Garum Spices.
Garum, which dates back to the Roman Empire, is traditional a fermented sauce made from fish, salt and sometimes herbs. In Nomas case according to to the Wall Street Journal, these garums will actually be vegetarian or vegan.
The egg whites and the smoked mushroom garums are in some ways a product of the pandemic. The restaurant was developing fermented sauces back in 2014 when Eater peeked into Noma’s now closed science bunker, but Redzepi and his team never had time to refine their product. “We have been thinking about it for many years,” he said WSJ, “But we were always too busy.” The restaurant’s Fermentation Lab is now ready to present the first two products that can be delivered to amateur chefs.
Since it took so long for these spices to hit the market – they won’t hit the market until fall or winter according to the Noma Projects website – the restaurant is for once not at the top or setting the trend. Over the past year, with so many people stuck at home cooking for themselves, tons of restaurants have released condiments and other housewares designed to improve the lives of home cooks who miss restaurants. You can buy chili chips, Barbecue sauce, or Spice mixes and hot sauces from any number of popular institutions. Selling well-traveled spices was a way for restaurants to interact with guests at a time of intense isolation. But it seems that the trend could last forever. And for Noma, a restaurant that the majority of diners will never come close to, spices and other packaged foods that travel well might be the perfect option to just throw in one taste a very elusive experience.
Of course, like everything Noma does, these two spices are the result of a very, very extensive creative process. They were loud WSJ, selected from hundreds of vinegars, misos, kombuchas and garums developed by the restaurant’s testing laboratory. Jason Ignacio White, the director of the Fermentation Lab, said these garums find their way into all kinds of soups, sauces and vinaigrettes in restaurants: “Just like adding a little spice to a dish.” To make these non-fish garums , the ingredients – in this case mushrooms and egg whites – are in a warm solution of Which Rice inoculating grains with an edible mold. According to the WSJ, Noma Projects will be releasing more garums as soon as the first two are out, including one that is intensely flavored with fried chicken wings. Redzepi told the Journal that he hopes the vegetarian Garums will help home cooks switch to more plant-based diets. Internally, he hopes the restaurant will make money with this line of products. Since Noma opened 18 years ago, the average profit margin has been just three percent, according to Redzepi. Ideally, these funky spices will help fill up the restaurant’s pockets a bit.
Granted, I haven’t spent much time in the last year wondering what Noma is up to, a little more preoccupied with getting through a pandemic. But my friends are traveling again, posting about it on Instagram, and good ol ‘FOMO has crept in again. I feel perfectly satisfied these days when I poke my head out of the house for a drink or even to eat in a crowded restaurant room. Traveling around the world, on the other hand, still doesn’t feel that way, especially when even my local cafe still feels like an adventure. But coating my eggs or rice in a funky sauce made by some of the world’s foremost fermentation experts? Still pretty exciting.