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Served "mystery sauce" at Egyptian restaurant

  • m

I had the most intriguing "mystery sauce" last night at a very unpretentious local Egyptian restaurant. It was pure white and extremely creamy, and the proprietress challenged each table to identify it, warning that there was no cream or yogurt in it. Tasting it, the overwhelming flavor was garlic, but in appearance the only thing I could think of was the silkiness of homemade marshmallows (if you haven't made them, that's another post!).

I finally realized it was olive oil, and the proprietress confirmed it - olive oil, garlic and lemon whirled in a blender for 45 minutes! But there is another ingredient, which she wouldn't reveal.

It's been on my mind ever since. The sauce was perfectly stable - it didn't change throughout the meal. Do you think the "secret ingredient" adds stability, or could the olive oil and garlic stand up on its own? I'm thinking gelatin (but nothing hot to dissolve it in) or pectin.

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    1. re: Candy

      The egg white would cause the oil to emulsify, and in essence it would become a thin mayonnaise.

      1. re: Candy

        egg white was my first guess - no eggs.

      2. What's the restaurant? And where is it? Perhaps a local chowhounder can investigate.

        1. Potato? Sounds a little like Zankou garlic sauce.

          1. Your question completely reminded me of a question someone had on the General Topics board about a mystery "Middle Eastern dip" (that's the title of the thread if you want to do a Ctrl-F page search on the GT board).

            Someone responded that it was "toum," a Lebanese dip. You can google for plenty of recipes. Of course, there are many variations, but I found one recipe that had an interesting secret ingredient...potato. See link for that recipe below. Egg yolk also appeared in some recipes.

            Link: http://www.lebaneseproducts.com/recip...

            1. Salt?

              They make the same sauce at the Lebanese Taverna in the Washington DC metro area, and there's nothing in it but garlic, oil (not olive, or at least nothing with a strong olive flavor), lemon juice and salt, but it's fluffy, white, and has the consistency of home-made mayonnaise that keeps for a long time in the fridge.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Ilaine

                The sauce I am thinking of is called "toum". Some recipes use a little potato but most just use garlic, oil, salt, and lemon juice.

                I admit I never made it, just buy it by the tub at the Lebanese Taverna market. Yum!

                1. re: Ilaine

                  Boy, do I miss the Lebanese Taverna. I dream about their fateh bel djaje. Had many great meals there, followed by coffees and arak of course.

              2. j
                JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

                Add another one to the potato crowd.... here's a recipe for you.

                5 large garlic cloves
                a little salt
                1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
                1 small potato, mashed and boiled

                Pound the garlic and salt to paste in a mortar and pestle until it turns to paste. Very slowly add the oil, constantly stirring. Mix in the potato, and serve. You can skip the potato if you want, or use 3-4 tablespoons of strained yogurt in its place. If you like it extra-garlicky, reduce or omit the potato.

                Link: http://thecosmicjester.blogspot.com

                1. Yes, it sounds like Toum, and in its purest form, it is just garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. A lot of places will use potato or just mix it with mayonnaise. While the ingredient list is simple, it's a hard recipe to master. Half the time I make it, it does not work, but when it does...oh boy. It really does fluff up into a light, white mass, and one head of garlic makes a mother load of the stuff. It is so popular that restaurants that are good at making it sell it in large to-go soup containers. Apparently the trick is to add the oil, VERY slowly, so I guess when I was dumping everything into the blender or handmixer canister, it was pure luck that it actually fluffed up into what it was supposed to be.
                  I've had it with potato, but it just tasted like bland garlic potatoes...the best stuff is made with just the garlic, oil, and lemon juice (and salt to taste).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: nicthommi

                    please oh PLEASE give us your recipe for your simple pure toum.

                  2. Garlic in large enough quantities can act as an emulsifier.

                    1. very true. ive attemped to make toum like zankou chickens a few times..
                      it emulsifies....but just wasn't the right amounts to be identical.

                      1. could it have been a bread of some sort? i feel like i've read some recipes for garlic, olive oil, lemon and bread dips/sauces in greek cookbooks. could be mistaken though.

                        1. It sounds like lecithin to me. Ages ago I read a book on making healthier versions of storebought foods including salad dressings. The secret was lecithin. It's a soy product, comes in liquid or powdered form and stabilizes or emulsifies oils and non-oils. I tried this and it definitely works. It had no real taste on its own.

                          1. A small amount of white beans, perhaps?

                            1. "whirled in a blender for 45 minutes"

                              That sounds a little excessive to me. I mean wouldn't the heat alone dramatically change the viscosity of the oil?

                              1 Reply
                              1. My favorite lebanese place has a great garlic puree (toum as mentioned above) that sounds like what you're describing. It doesn't use potatoes. Here are two recipes, one with, one without.


                                1. 1 boiled soft potato thats what alot of restaurants use in their Toum sauce or Mayo

                                  1. My local lebanese dining establishment serves Toum, with the typical olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt combo... with the secret ingredient of... chopped jalepeno. It gives it a little extra kick.

                                    1. It is surely "thom" sauce (pronounce like tome as in synonym for book)---which means garlic sauce. There is no secret ingredient. It is just salt, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice. Do NOT add potato, mayo, or egg. Whizz in blender for only a few moments and it blends together, no need for anything else. 45 minutes? If you try it you will see it congeals in seconds. This is not truly and Egyptian ingredient. It is more Lebanese and surrounding countries, but these days lots of Lebanese foods have become pan-Arab and are popular in all countries. Anyway, I think the lady was just trying to be mysterious. I promise you that's all it is.