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Garlic Sauce Or Toum

The first time I had ever heard of toum—the crazy good, strong garlic sauce that is a ubiquitous Middle Eastern condiment for kebabs and other barbecued meats—was just a few years ago. 

We were both surprised that not only had I never made this version of garlic aoli before, I had never tasted it, either. Turns out I was missing out on the kind of garlicky flavor that gives  a whole new meaning.

There is not a lot of garlic in the Lebanese cuisine I grew up with, which may be the result of the regions from which my parents hail, but it could also have to do with the fact that my mother really does not care for garlic.

For her, garlic is like an annoyance that just won’t go away, the mosquito bite of foods.

When she heard I’d be making toum with you, she did not pretend to think that was a good idea.

It’s as though she thought the windows of my blog would be wide open and through those windows the scent of garlic would bother everyone as much as it bothers her.

She did point out that it’s not just her taste that has kept toum off our table—it’s never been on any table in either her or my father’s families, and it is not in her favorite old country cookbook, either. 

Emulsions can be a tricky thing; we spent plenty of time on them in culinary school and discovered that practice makes perfect.

I had a few rounds of unsuccessful toum during that time and decided I’d leave perfecting it to another day—like today. Given that garlic is the basis of the sauce, into which the oil is emulsified, it takes a significant amount of garlic to create enough of a foundation for the oil to work its magic.

So don’t be shocked by the full cup of garlic cloves used in the recipe, or the four cups of neutral-flavored oil that are blended into them…it can be more than challenging to make a smaller amount of toum, and since toum lasts for weeks in your refrigerator, a larger quantity is not a bad thing (think the best garlic toast you’ve ever tasted, under the broiler). Unless you’re a member of the no-garlic-on-my-table club

Fluffy toum sauce is delicious with any type of barbecued meat, particularly chicken, beef, or lamb, and grilled vegetables. Try it spread on thick slices of crusty bread and broiled for some of the finest garlic toast around.

Check this toum demo out by the talented Lebanese Chef Kamal Al-Faqih. My recipe is an adaptation of his (from his Classic Lebanese Cuisine, published in 2009 by Three Forks, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press). Be sure to use a food processor, spatula, and measuring cup that are completely dry—water can cause the emulsion to break.

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