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The Noma Guide to Fermentation by René Redzepi and David Zilber, Artisan, US $40.00, Pp 456, October 2018, ISBN 978-1579657185

Noma in the Christianshavn neighborhood of Copenhagen, Denmark — known for new Nordic cuisine — was named the world’s best restaurant four times by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants since 2010. René Redzepi has twice appeared on the cover of Time magazine and been named one of time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. He has also been featured in publications from the New York Times to Wired and some documentaries. His first book, Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine, was an IACP and James Beard Award winner. He has also authored A Work in Progress. One of the secrets of Noma’s success is that every dish includes some form of fermentation. It can be a bright hit of vinegar, a deeply savory miso, a drop of garum, or simply the sweet intensity of black garlic. At Noma, they flavor their food and make it delicious by using some kind of fermenting technique.

In The Noma Guide to Fermentation, chef and co-owner René Redzepi and chef David Zilber tell the story of Noma and how they adopted fermentation as the foundation of their cuisine with the help of more than 500 step-by-step photographs and illustrations. David Zilber, who runs the restaurant’s acclaimed fermentation lab, share never-before-revealed techniques to creating Noma’s extensive pantry of ferments. René Redzepi says that Noma had become known as the restaurant responsible for defining modern Nordic cuisine by early 2010s. He writes, “How could we claim to be cooking Nordic food if we used techniques from abroad? The notion of microbial terroir helped change everything for us.” He says that fermentation knows no borders. It’s as much a part of the cooking tradition in Denmark as it is in Italy or Japan or China. Without fermentation, there is no kimchi, no fluffy sourdough bread, no parmigiana, no wine or beer or spirits, no pickles, no soy sauce. There is no pickled herring or rye bread. Without fermentation, there is no Noma.

People have always associated Noma closely with wild food and foraging but the defining pillar of Noma is fermentation. In 2014 — the year Noma was named the world’s best restaurant for the fourth time –, he asked Lars Williams and Arielle Johnson to build a space dedicated to exploring fermentation. Lars was Noma’s longest-tenured chef and Arielle had become the resident scientist in 2013 while finishing her Ph.D. in flavor chemistry. The two of them took their efforts to the next level, turning fermentation into a pursuit of its own at Noma — almost completely separate from the day-to-day activities of running the restaurant.

There are thousands of products of fermentation, from beer and wine to cheese to kimchi to soy sauce. René Redzepi says that they are all dramatically different creations, of course, but they’re unified by the same basic process. Microbes — bacteria, molds, yeasts, or a combination thereof — break down or convert the molecules in food, producing new flavors as a result. Take lacto-fermented pickles, for instance where bacteria consume sugar and generate lactic acid, souring the vegetables and the brine in which they sit, simultaneously preserving them and rendering them more delicious. The cascades of secondary reactions contribute layers of flavors and aromas that didn’t exist in the original, unfermented product. The best ferments still retain much of their original, unfermented product. The best ferments still retain much of their original character, whether that is a touch of residual sweetness in a carrot vinegar or the floral perfume of wild roses in a rose kombucha, while simultaneously being transformed into something entirely new. The Noma Guide to Fermentation is a comprehensive tour of the ferments they employ at Noma.

The Noma Guide to Fermentation is an amazing cookbook that provides unique fermenting techniques to make your food delicious and flavorful. It includes techniques that are usually not included in other cookbooks. It also provides over 100 flavorful and aromatic recipes. All these recipes involve some kind of fermenting process. The Noma Guide to Fermentation is packed with warmth, humor and great flavorful recipes you will not find elsewhere. You will eat dishes from one of the best restaurants in the world in your own home. Noma represents an altogether different culinary world and The Noma Guide to Fermentation will help you enter this world. The Noma Guide to Fermentation will serve both home cooks and restaurant cooks alike.

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