Fermenting Fish

Zuursalon: Pieter Kaptein, Geert Dekens, Alice de Jong - Tokowijzer, Bianca Snoek, Jeroen van Wieren - Salsamentum

17 Jun 2016

From the dreaded Swedish cans of Surströmming to ‘Garum’ style fish sauce. At this edition of Zuursalon we'll explore one of the strongest ferments there is: rotting fish. With a little help from salt, the Sun and the fish's own bacteria many cultures in the world have been able to transform their fish into strongly-flavoured delicacies. What are their techniques? And where do the regional differences come from? This program is curated by Meneer Wateetons.

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Surströmming in a can - This fermented sour haring is a delicacy in the Nordic region. The fish is fermented for over 6 months leading to a distinct scent and flavour. Image by: Mats Fallqvist from county museum Gävleborg


Alice de Jong - Tokowijzer

Traditional fish sauce is an amber-coloured liquid extracted from the fermentation of fish with salt. This flavourful staple ingredient is abundant in many Asian kitchens and usually made from a single type of raw fish: anchovies. However, many alternative ingredients, applications and production methods exist. Sinologist and foodie Alice de Jong from Tokowijzer (the online guide for Asian food) will give a historical overview of many regional differences and varieties. Are you able to tell the difference between fish or oyster based sauce?
Tasting: Fish Sauce


Empty bottles of fish sauce - Fermented fish and salt make the most delicious fish sauce! Image via Flirck

Bianca Snoek - Nordic Delikatesser

Bianca lived in Sweden for years and is, apart from IKEA, the only seller of Swedish delicacies in the Netherlands. She will let us try one of the most extreme varieties of fermented fish in the world: Surströmming. Surströmming quite literally means 'sour (sur) herring (strömming),' but cannot be compared to the Dutch variety in vinegar. The production method is at least 500 years old, and a can of it belonged in the standard rations of a Swedish soldier in the 17th century.
Tasting: Surströmming


A selection of fish sauces - Are you able to taste the differences between the Fish Sauces form different regions?

Pieter Kaptein and Geert Dekens - Holland Diamond Fish

Ever since the 1970s it has been a personal goal of Geert Dekens to create a Dutch Vietnamese-style fish sauce. Originally, his aim was to supply the Vietnamese population of France, but nowadays his focus lies with the re-use of residual fish products. With a new partner, biotechnologist Pieter Kaptein (also from his hometown Urk), he now produces a Dutch fish sauce from European plaice, a fish abundant in the Noordzee. They are currently testing out their first batches. If all goes well their aim is to increase production after the Summer.


Fish ready to be fermented - Fish Sauce is made from fish and salt and is used abundantly in the Asian Kitchen. The Taste Collective

Jeroen van Wieren - Salsamentum, de Zoutkamer

There's a lot more to fish sauce than the Asian kitchen. Did you know for instance that it was a major ingredient in ancient European cuisine? Although it's no longer commonly used in most regions, you are still able to find this primal European fish sauce in Italy. Jeroen van Wiere, from de Zoutkamer, introduces us to a lesser known Italian variety; the Colatura di alibi di Catera. It is made solely from anchovies and fermented according to an ancient Roman recipe: Garum.
Tasting: pasta with Colatura di alibi di Catera


Garum manufacturing explanatory panel - Mosaic depicting a garum pitcher found at Pompeii. Image found via this link.


Garum pits - Fish sauce of the Ancient Mediterranean societies, noted for its popularity in and during the Roman Empire. The sauce was probably of Greek origins. The sauce was made from fish intestines and fish meat and fermented in these types of brewing vats. Image via Flickr

Meneer Wateetons

Meneer Wateetons is a self-confessed terrible cook. However, when it comes to fermentation experimentation, he knows exactly what to do. As well as the curator of Mediamatic's Zuursalon, he is the author of four books, including 'Over Rot,' a book dedicated to the art of fermentation.


Fermentation, decay, mould. These are all terms that sound wholly unappetising, yet form the base of many delicious foods and beverages. Think of cheese, yoghurt, wine, or beer! Join our passion for experimentation and push the boundaries with the biological possibilities of the edible with our homage to fermentation: the Zuursalon.

Zuursalon: Fermenting Fish
Friday June 17th, 20:00
Tickets: Students €5,- / Pre-sale €7,50 / Door €10,-

Mediamatic Biotoop, Dijspark 6, Amsterdam