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May 25, 2004 09:54 PM

Zankou Garlic Sauce redux

  • d

OK, I have some interesting intelligence about the ingredients in Zankou's Garlic Sauce.

I introduced my team at work to Zankou last Friday. Even the timid among them loved it. They also demolished the falafels and mutabal. If you've never had the mutabal (pureed roasted eggplant) do yourself a favor and try it next time you go!

Anyway, one of the women gets very ill when she eats potatoes so we always know to warn her off them. I assured her that there was nary a potato in Zankou's kitchen. WRONG. After eating she felt mildly queasy.

On the way home from work she stopped at her local convenience store. She's friendly with the Middle Eastern family that runs it. She was chatting with them about having had Zankou for the first time, and her stomach upset and the potato problem. They assured her there are mashed potatoes in the garlic sauce!

Luckily, since she'd only had a tablespoon or two of garlic sauce, her distress was pretty mild, but I have to admit, I'd never suspected potatoes as one of the ingredients of this addictive schmear!

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  1. You're right, good intel.

    In the past, people on this board have theorized that "The Sauce" was thickened with some type of starch, maybe instant potato flakes or another derivative...

    1. The garlic sauce is called toum. The traditional recipe for this is a rather simple affair made with vegetable oil, lemon juice, salt and a ton of garlic. You puree the garlic in a blender (not a food processor) with the lemon juice and salt and add a slow and steady stream of oil to make sure it binds consistently. It's a very similar process to making mayonnaise.

      How do I know this? I asked the guy behind the counter at Sahara Falafel, which serves a similar garlic paste with their falafel, shawarma and tarna (which are better than Zankou's renditions - no rotisserie chicken though, and it takes a long time to get your order). Also, one of the workers at the Al Tayebat market gave me a similar recipe.

      Zankou may add potato to thicken the sauce and to assist binding, but if they do it's probably a very small amount. Also, don't substitute olive oil for vegetable oil - the veg oil binds better.

      14 Replies
      1. re: Chris G.

        You gotta love Google. I typed in toum and recipe and found the following, which includes potato in the recipe.


        1. re: Chris G.

          Both of these specify olive oil, contrary to your earlier caveat.

          1. re: dave g

            I noticed that as well, but the guy at Sahara specifically specified that vegetable oil binds better than olive oil. The web recipe also doesn't give specifics about adding the oil in a slow, steady stream to the blender - in fact it doesn't give much detail at all (for example, how much is five "cubes" of potato). At least it provides a frame of reference.

          2. re: Chris G.

            Try heating the garlic sauce and you'll realize there is very little fat of any kind. I tried sauteeing veggies in it once and it scorched and did not render any oil. It's still a mystery to me... it tastes like it has a ton of lard or shortening but apparently it does not.

            1. re: Sonia

              Well, my thanksgiving mashed potatoes have a ton of fat in them, but when I've reheated it the cream and butter doesn't separate from it. Why should the garlic sauce with potato be any different?

              But just to make sure, I called an insider at Zankou. Here's what he told me: "I can't give you the exact amounts under penalty of death, but I can tell you that the garlic sauce contains garlic, lemon juice, potato, rye gluten, alpha amylase, amyl nitrate, propionic acid, soy flour, diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides, gluteus maximus, fungal enzymes, holicks malt powder, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, and a baby's arm holding an apple. The ingredients are mixed together in a 60-quart American Eagle mixer with a small paint chip missing near the off switch by a descendent of Rasputin while 13 virgins circle the mixer in a clockwise direction as they chant 'Zankou Zankou, we accept you, we accept you, one of us.' But don't try this at home."

              1. re: Chris G.

                Got a point there with your mashed potatoes analogy. I guess the starch really absorbs the fat. It's probably all about the proportions...

                Know of a good source for holicks malt powder? I think I can get everything else at the Beachwood Market.

                1. re: Sonia

                  I think you can find holicks (not exactly the same thing as Horlicks but similar) at any grocery store in the fourth ward. I'll ask my friends Willie Green and Dolemite if they can help me track some down.

                  1. re: Sonia

                    You can buy it at the Chinese supermarket in Chinatown on Broadway (upstairs in the same place where Mandarin Deli is). Also I have seen it at India Sweets & Spices but it's the Indian version and it has cardomom added to it -- kind of strange. I prefer the Brit version.

                  2. re: Chris G.

                    But - it must be only the right arm of the baby, and it must be from a male child who was born under the quarter moon.

                    I know two Armenians who make this sauce, and by getting hints from both, I can figure out what the ingredients are. Neither one will give you all the ingredients or the porportions. One mentioned mayonaise, and when I asked the other one, he said no. So, mayo is optional. Both of them list lemon juice, loads of pureed garlic, olive oil.

                    Now, here's where it gets a bit tricky - one uses finely mashed potatoes, while the other uses instant mashed potatoes, and I've had someone say that you can also use potato starch. The mayo seems to soften the flavors and make the sauce "creamier". Both of these men run commercial establishments (one has a restaurant with very good Zankou style chicken, the other a market, also offering the same style rotisseried chicken), and I know one uses the jars of pureed garlic to save time. The Armenian from Russia doesn't use Mayo, but the other, who is from Turkish Armenia, does. The rest of it, including how you emulsify the oil, and your taste buds, will make the decision on how you prepare it.

                    1. re: Deirdre

                      Are these two establishments that the two fellows run in the greater LA area? If they are please divulge the names and locations for future chicken hounding.

                      1. re: Deirdre

                        I did my own "experimentation" and you can read the details at the link below (or scroll up a page or two).

                        I was surprised how simple the ingredients were and how easy it was to make considering all the conjecture about the sauce on this board previously (I think there was a string about two years ago that went on with all sorts of hypotheses and voodoo theories). It was so easy to make I think I'll have my 10-year-old cousin whip up the next batch.

                        My recipe yielded more than 2 cups of garlic "lard" that looks and tastes identical to Zankou's concoction, and I probably used about $1 worth of ingredients. Now that my sauce has settled a couple days I think I'd either go for more garlic or less potato (I almost typed "more garlic, more potato" then realized it looked like a Japanese Pizza Hut ad), although like the Zankou sauce the garlic has a way of creeping up on you.

                        Actually next time I make it I think I'll forego the potato altogether for the full-on garlic blast. Now would probably be a good time to invest in Bristol Myers as I'll probably be going through a case of Ban a week.


                  3. re: Chris G.

                    Here's a recipe for Greek skordalia, which is very similar to Lebanese/Armenian toum.

                    In researching this futher, I've found other ingredient variations such as mayonnaise, egg whites, bread, almonds or walnuts and cream, but the recipe here seems like it will yield results very similar to Zankou's garlic sauce/paste. I'll probably do some experimenting of my own tonight (i.e. olive oil vs. vegetable oil) and I'll post the results.


                    1. re: Chris G.

                      Way 1 looks like just the ticket.