I love toum!

I’ve been eating lebanese shawarmas since, as I started typing this I thought, before my teens, when we were in USSR (yes, there was a lebanese shawarma place), but no, probably as soon as I could eat solids was when I started, because I was born in the middle east.  Maybe that’s why I love it so much, it’s been embedded deep in my cellular memory.  Shawarmas always have a thick smear of toum in them, and without it, it is nothing… 

roast chicken and toum in flatbread I made

When you eat at a Lebanese outfit, whatever meat or chicken meal you order, it will inevitably be served with chips and this white garlicky stuff, which you would understandably call garlic mayonnaise.  It is kind of like mayonnaise in that it is an emulsion of oil and egg, but you will be wondering what kind of mayonnaise it is, and where you could buy it, because it’s like mayonnaise but it isn’t somehow.  Then, you might buy some mayonnaise in a jar, and add some crushed garlic to it, and then you’ll taste it and think, no, that’s not what that garlicky white stuff was like, and feel very sad.  Then you’ll google “garlic white sauce lebanese” and find that it’s called Toum and discover it’s made with very simple ingredients, you’ll think, man, I can do this, and then you read how frustrating it can be to make because it always splits and so you never try.

But then one day you discover this website and it changes your life (I’m sure there are other websites too but I don’t know them…)



Typical western style mayonnaise is made with oil and a whole egg, while Japanese (Kewpie?) mayonnaise is made with oil and an egg yolk.  Toum is made with oil and the egg white, and is, at once, stiffer and fluffier than regular mayonnaise.  So I don’t call it mayonnaise anymore, I either call it Toum, or ‘that garlicky white stuff’.  Why I never thought to use the stick blender, I don’t know, as it seems so intuitive.  All the liquids you chuck into the container will separate into distinct layers, so when you start blending at the bottom, it emulsifies the different liquids a little at a time as the stick blender is lifted up whilst blending.  Also, maybe it’s because of the egg white stabilising the emulsification that this becomes so successful (that could well be the real reason, as last night I attempted to make Japanese mayonnaise with the stick blender, and it didn’t work.  Maybe an extremely fresh egg yolk needs to be used..?).

So, using the recipe at the above site, I’ve very happily made toum several times.  Here’s that blog’s recipe:


6-8 cloves garlic, peeled

1 tsp. salt

1 egg white

1 tbsp. water

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 cup (250ml) neutral oil (not grapeseed)

The blog author says to pulverise the garlic with the stick blender first, then add the other ingredients.  I like to pound the garlic in my batu tumbok (mortar and pestle) till it’s mushy and then I’ll dump everything together in the canister.

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