Toum Raider.
July 23, 2007 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Toum is a traditional Lebanese garlic sauce...and I am having much trouble with it.

Particularly, I am having trouble with the consistency. I have attempted to make it both in a mortar and pestle, and in a food processor. I have used olive oil, vegetable oil, and mayonnaise as a base.

Every time, it seems like it comes out too thin. Having never had it outside of trying to make it, I don't know this for certain... but photos I have seen show a consistency like hummus.

It also seems like it comes out too strong. People say that despite the amount of garlic, the oil tempers the dish and it should taste mild. Mine always tastes very, very sharp. Hot, even.

Am I making this right? Does anybody have some insights into this? Any tips for getting the oil/garlic/lemon mix to "gel" and have more volume than just a thin, runny sauce?
posted by kaseijin to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Please see here. We took a cooking class at Lebanese Taverna, and learned to make, among other things, their garlic sauce. This is much more of an emulsion than anything you could hope to get from a mortar and pestle, so I'm hoping that I'm steering you in the right direction. This stuff is fabulous.
posted by ersatzkat at 3:23 PM on July 23, 2007

I have made this at home before and I used a blender. You end up with something that has a consistency kind of like whipped cream.

This recipe from gives you a better idea of the process to follow. Adding the oil in a slow trickle is important. Using fresh young garlic, not the stuff that has been sitting at your local supermarket for months, will also help make your sauce milder. I'd probably try the allrecipes recipe again, but following the process described in the recipe.
posted by needled at 3:24 PM on July 23, 2007

I have family in/from the Middle East, and they make this dip. When I have observed them making it, they used lots more garlic than you are using - a few whole giant heads. I have only seen them use a mortar and pestle, and they work the salt into the garlic before starting to add the oil. The lemon juice goes last. The process is slow, too. I would dramatically up the garlic you use and make sure that it's truly a paste before you start to add oil.
posted by Flakypastry at 3:34 PM on July 23, 2007

I'd suggest three things to temper the strength of the garlic:

1. Pace needled, big cloved (like "elephant garlic" are milder than small ones. Young garlic might taste different (as do garlic shoots, which we get from Korean grocers), but my experience has always been that bigger=milder.

2. Roast or boil the cloves- some or all of them- before making the toum. That's what we sometimes for aioli- some cooked, some raw.

3. Use less garlic!
posted by ethnomethodologist at 3:35 PM on July 23, 2007

You might not like this, "I know I don't" when I first learned how a local restaurant in Beirut makes it. But it tastes and looks damn good. Add to your recipe 1 egg white. It will give you the consistency you are looking for and a whiter color for the dip. Avoid the mayonnaise. And add oil last.
posted by convex at 3:47 PM on July 23, 2007

Just as a point of information, tum ("toum" in the French-influenced spelling used in Lebanon) is simply the Arabic word for garlic.
posted by languagehat at 4:58 PM on July 23, 2007

This is slightly OT, but once you figure out the sauce, try it with french fries. As a kid we had a lebanese neighbor who would make toum with fresh french fries. Mmmmm.
posted by jeremias at 6:50 PM on July 23, 2007

It's the exact same recipe as the allioli that people make here in Spain. Some people get it to work consistently, others are never able to get it to gel. I seem to have the luck, and sometimes it drives people crazy that a foreigner can do it. Some tips:

The basic technique is to move the pestle around in a circular motion. Always use a steady speed, not too fast, and never never stop turning. It's better to slow down for a while than stop for a rest. Use your wrist more than your arm, or you'll get cramps after a few minutes.

The bottom of the pestle should slide along the bottom of the mortar. Use the side of the pestle to sweep the allioli up the sides of the mortar. If your mortar is too big, the allioli will sit in a puddle at the bottom and it won't work. If you're doing it right, air will get trapped underneath, and you'll see a flat layer on top that sticks to the pestle and falls down on top of the trapped air with every circle. If your just swirling it around without mixing in air, it'll never thicken. Patience and a steady motion are very important.

At the beginning, crush the garlic and salt very thoroughly, and then start mixing it in the circular motion. It should already have a fluffy consistency with no lumps before you add any oil. Use a fair amount of salt. It's essential to getting it to rise, and once you've got it working you can add a lot of oil to make it less salty.

If you can get someone to help, the best way is to have them add a very very thin stream of oil while you keep mixing. The main cause of failed allioli is adding the oil too fast. Adding three cups of oil into an allioli should take at least 15 minutes. The consistency should never be too thin. If it starts to thin out, stop adding oil and mix for a while until it thickens again. If it suddenly breaks and liquefies, sometimes you can revive it by adding a raw egg yolk and mixing some more.

They say here that women can't get the allioli to rise when they're having their period. It's an old saying that's become a joke, but the truth is that sometimes it won't rise no matter what you try, and no one has a good explanation.
posted by fuzz at 7:28 AM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

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