This feisty dip is prepared in several ways in Lebanon, where it’s known as toum. It’s an icon of the Lebanese culinary repertoire and I can remember my love for toum beginning early on, when as a child I would make secret midnight trips to the fridge and snack on it by dipping in with some Arabic bread.
Usually, at home, pounded garlic is emulsified with olive oil and finished with a squeeze of lemon. In the north of the country, mint may be added. The garlic dip served in restaurants resembles more of an aioli, except that egg whites rather than a whole egg are used, as in this recipe. There are even recipes that include mashed potatoes, though I find that to be sacrilege. This garlic sauce is not at all for the faint-hearted: a little goes a long way.
It is wonderful paired with raw kebbeh (a version of steak tartare eaten as a mezza) and chicken, such as in the butterflied chicken or beer butt chicken, as well as spread onto warm, thick heirloom tomato slices, sprinkled with a little sumac and drizzled with olive oil. I prefer to prepare it with a good-quality vegetable oil instead of olive oil, as the olive oil tends to give a bitter taste and discoloration. I also find that using a pestle and mortar first to create a garlic paste yields better results.
- 1 garlic bulb, separated into cloves
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 egg white
- 250ml/9fl oz/1 cup sunflower oil
- Juice of 1?2 lemon, or more to taste
- ?2 tsp finely chopped mint leaves (optional)
- Pound the garlic cloves and salt using a pestle and mortar or small food processor until a paste forms. If using the pestle and mortar, transfer the garlic paste to the food processor, add the egg white and process for 1–2 minutes or until well incorporated, frothy and smooth.
- While the blade is running (if your machine has a funnel), add the oil a little at a time (start with adding 1 teaspoon at a time for a few times and then gradually move up to 1 tbsp at a time) until the mixture reaches a creamy consistency. As the mixture emulsifies it will turn a pure white colour and will have a fluffy, creamy texture.
- Alternatively, you can add a little oil at a time intermittently (start with 1 teaspoon at a time for a few times and then increase to 1 tablespoon at a time) and running the blade for about 30 seconds at a time, repeating until the mixture has emulsified.
- Finally, add the lemon juice and pulse for a further 20 seconds. Mix in the chopped mint, if using, then taste and adjust the seasoning as required.