Making Real Garlic Aioli (Toum)
There is little room for error when one makes true Garlic Aioli (also know as “Toum”) . Unlike European aioli, it traditionally has only 4 ingredients (olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt). Counter-intuitively, having just 4 ingredients increases the difficulty in achieving its signature creamy texture. That is because emulsifying olive oil and lemon juice with the garlic takes patience and expertise. However, it’s worth the effort, as a fantastic aioli free of mayo, mashed potatoes, corn starch, eggs, has a punch that makes it the perfect garlic dipping sauce.
The Original Garlic Aioli and America’s Garlic Aioli
Shortcuts are frequently used in the West that disregard the essence of Toum. Vegetable or canola oil is sometimes used instead of olive oil. Even worse, many restaurants that are supposed to have mastered making aioli add mayo, corn starch, mashed potatoes or even eggs because they cannot get the right consistency. None of those ingredients make their way into traditional Toum and would earn a disapproving look in the kitchens on the other side of the world.
In the Eastern Mediterranean, it is a point of pride to make a perfect Toum. Before food processors and blenders, it was made with a mortar and pestle. At that time, cooks needed not only a deft touch in adding the olive oil and lemon juice at the right time, but they also needed tremendous arm strength to get the garlic down to a paste. It was a labor of love. But if you have ever tasted a superior Garlic Aioli, you realize that no other garlic-based preparation can compete with it.
Only Olive Oil
Despite the information you may find across the web, Toum is made with olive oil, even though it presents additional challenges that you will not encounter with canola oil. The Lebanese had little access to any other kind of oil, so despite the difficulty, olive oil is in the recipes that mothers have been passing down generation to generation.
We live in an age of shortcuts. In the case of Toum, it is food processors, blenders, additives and ingredient replacement. It is good to know that the Toum that defines the Eastern Mediterranean has defied these ‘improvements.’ Nothing has made it considerably easier. Don’t plan on making a true Toum (with just olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and salt) with an Internet recipe, because every great Toum has many failed attempts before it. But if you were to line up the real thing against the ones with shortcuts, it is obvious that it is worth the hard work. And after you learn through trial and error, the achievement will make the Garlic Aioli / Toum taste even better.
Nothing but the Real Thing
Our Garlic Aioli / Toum is the real thing. We make it from olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and salt. You’d be surprised how many NYC restaurants have not taken the time to create a dipping sauce that would be accepted in the streets of the Istanbul. We believe our customers shouldn’t taste secondhand flavors, so we didn’t settle until we made a Toum that is worthy of its name.