Zankou's Garlic Sauce Clone

Zankou Chicken, the Armenian-Lebanese rotisserie chicken restaurant with a store in Anaheim's Little Arabia, is widely known for its white garlic sauce. At first glance, it looks like vanilla cake frosting. Taste it, though, and it has a garlic punch that whups you across the face like Randy Couture, as well as a tart lemon sting in its tail. It goes with everything from roasted meats to vegetables to bread; it even improves cold, leftover pizza.

Toum, as it's called in Arabic, is by no means exclusive to Zankou. Other local restaurants–such as Sasoon Chicken in Orange–also make a killer garlic sauce. But with its many stores across Los Angeles and Orange Counties, Zankou is the restaurant that has made it a SoCal favorite.

Today, we have two versions of toum. More after the jump!

The version in the video is an emulsion sauce, more of a garlic mayonnaise suitable to use as a dip. The other variant is a spread thickened with a starch–either bread or potatoes. Both variations will have the same basic flavor profile of raw garlic, salt and lemon juice, but the consistency will be different.

Fanatics argue about what gives Zankou's sauce its thick, pasty consistency, but Zankou isn't about to tell anyone. It's bright-white like hydrogenated lard, but it's not lard-based. I suspect the pasty body comes from mashed potatoes. If you take some of Zankou's sauce and fry some in a pan, it will not liquefy like lard or even mayo. It stays together, sizzling like a potato pancake bubbling to escape the unrelentingly fetid grip of garlic.

Toum (Lebanese garlic spread)

3 small, peeled russet potatoes
1 whole head of garlic, peeled
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, reserve half
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil

  1. Make sure the potatoes are completely peeled, with any green or brown discoloration is removed.
  2. Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft, then mash to a smooth consistency. Allow to cool.
  3. Pour the oil into a measuring cup with a spout to allow for easy administering.
  4. Place the peeled garlic cloves, salt and half of the lemon juice in a blender. Be sure to secure the lid.
  5. Turn the blender on high, and slowly stream the oil through the hole in the lid until the mixture combines into a smooth consistency.
  6. Pour out the garlic “mayo” into a bowl
  7. Add the mashed potatoes to the mixture 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until it's the consistency of loose, mashed potatoes.
  8. Add the remaining lemon juice a little at a time until the tartness tastes balanced to you.
  9. Cover the bowl, and chill the sauce completely.
  10. Temperature will affect how salty foods taste. Adjust the salt after the sauce has cooled.

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