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Zankou garlic sauce - mystery solved [moved from L.A. board]

  • c

Just made my first attempt at the Lebanese and Greek garlic sauce recipes I found online, and I'd be willing to bet Beck Hansen's Hyundai that I've found the recipe for Zankou's mystery garlic sauce.

Here's what I did (I dedicate this one to Jenny and her sister, I think her name is Debra):

Peel three small russet potatoes and boil in water until soft. Mash the potatoes (I used a food mill) and let cool.

Crush and peel a whole head of garlic (about 12 large cloves). Cut into quarters. Place raw garlic in a heavy duty blender (I used a 390-watt Waring) with 1/2 tbsp. of salt and juice of two large lemons (about 1/3 cup). Pour 1/2 cup of oil (I used canola oil) into a measuring cup and pour a small amount of oil from cup onto garlic (just enough for a light layer). Puree the garlic, salt and lemon juice on "Hi" and begin pouring a slow, steady stream of oil through the blender's handle hole until everything has coalesced.

At this point the sauce looked pretty damn good. I took a taste and it was a potent blast of pure garlic satisfaction. I would have stopped here, but I was after that elusive Zankou taste and texture, so on come the potatoes.

Add the mashed potatoes, about 2-3 tablespoons at a time. Add more potato after the sauce becomes consistent, and keep adding until all is incorporated in the sauce. You might want to transfer the garlic paste to a mixer before this step and add the potatoes in the mixer as my Waring was starting to show signs of stress towards the end of this process.

Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool completely in the fridge. After about an hour the flavors will blend together nicely and the texture will take on that library paste consistency like Zankou's sauce. Fortunately I had smoked chicken left over from last night's barbecue, so I heated it up in the oven and used it a "delivery medium" for the garlic sauce. It was just like Zankou. I bet it will be even better tomorrow.

I even gave this Sonia's frying test. The sauce held together in the frying pan, even as it started to sear and transform into some sadistic latke.

Here are the ingredients again in an easier to read format:

-3 small russet potatoes
-1 head of garlic (12-14 cloves)
-1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice
-1/2 tbsp. salt
-1/2 cup canola oil

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  1. Impressive investigation.
    Or go to Zankou and just buy some (they will sell it separately).

    1 Reply
    1. re: Griller141

      Clever Beck/Zankou reference...

      1. re: Dylan

        Yes (aka Toum in Lebanese aka garlic).

        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

          1. re: TexasToast

            greek skordalia has a few variations. either made with potatoes and/or torn bread. sometimes made with raw garlic cloves, sometimes with roasted. sometimes has added lemon juice, other times has vinegar added instead.

            sooo good. the best skordalia i've ever had was at a restaurant in chicago called mykonos. not even our greek family recipes can compare with their skordalia or saganaki. i wish i lived closer to chicago, or that mykonos would move here to LA for me.

        1. Yup that is the recipe. I knew someone who worked there years ago.. Thanx for posting. Don't live in LA anymore but I can make it at home and of course enjoy when I visit.

          1. good work - I was convinced the sauce was made of crisco, it's so white. That's a keeper. thanks

            2 Replies
            1. re: jbcook4me

              I was also convinced of this...plus the greasy texture...and usually anything that good has to be terrible for you :)

              1. re: jbcook4me

                That's what I've thought for years!

              2. i'd bet if you had the 500 watt oster blender with the glass container and the ice crusher blade your machine wouldn't be straining toward the end.

                1. Is the Zankou sauce, because of the potatoes, considered "inauthentic"? See the last sentence in the link below.


                  I'd be interested in hearing from any Lebanese chowhounds. (Yes, I know Zankou's owners are Armenian, but I believe via Lebanon.)

                  1. I've made this recipe. While it's good, I doubt that Zankou uses fresh potatoes. Next time, I'm using instant mashed potato flakes to get closer to what's served at their restaurant.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Professor Salt

                      most restaurants keep a little product known as potato starch handy. i'm guessing that's what they use as a thickener. that would account for the whitey white color and smooth consistency. the traditional dish from the old country is made with bread, as another poster mentioned - but Zankou has modified it into this amazing thing of their very own. which is what's driving us all nuts - especially since i now have to drive an hour and a half to sunset or glendale.

                      i'll try it with potato starch and let you know.

                    2. i tried the recipe here and felt it tasted nothing like the real deal. maybe i did something wrong...

                      but my friend just moved TO armenia (who would havee thought)
                      and sent me this recipe from a friend in yerevan.
                      i have yet to try it but if someone here is so inclined...please try and and write a review!

                      Toum (vrej's mom recipe)

                      2 egg whites
                      3/4 cup water
                      2 cups oil
                      1 spoon lemon juice

                      whip the egg whites and water together til its foamy.
                      slowly add other ingredients.
                      i think you can just add in as much garlic as you'd
                      like.....depending on how gassy you want to be.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: junglekitte

                        this one is super easy - imma try it tonight.

                      2. I tried making this sauce last night, and it more or less came out with the texture of very lightly whipped mashed potatoes.

                        #1, I didn't use a blender and mixed it by hand instead

                        #2, Did I just use TOO much potato?

                        #3, How does Zankou get their sauce so WHITE? Mine came out cream color....

                        1. Just after I moved from LA to SFO I had a craving for Zankou sauce. With all due respect to the many theories advanced on this board, I think you are all over thinking the problem.

                          I put a large amount of garlic, some olive oil, salt and lemon juice in a small food processor and turned it on til the puree was very very smooth. Add olive oil if it a little too dry, add lemon and salt to taste. The citric acid in the lemon will make the mixture whiten up.

                          Later while at a farmers market in Seattle I came across a stand that had tubs of what wifey and I recognized as the Zankou sauce. Ingredients listed? Garlic, olive oil, lemon, salt.

                          There are any number of more complicated recipes out there, but how much work do you really think Zankou is going to put into this? My resto experience tells me simpler is better.

                          1. I'm sure this link is long dead, but I wanted to thank the OP for this recipe, which I treasure and try to pass off as my own. It goes great on evaporated meats from high-tech streets~~~

                            1. Our first attempt at this came out very close to the original. The lemon juice from two large lemons proved to be too much, so we supplemented with additional garlic until we were satisfied.

                              Skeptically, we began adding the potato. Man, was this the right call! The texture and color were just about perfect. Next time, we'll add the lemon juice more sparingly, but this was a godsend for a family who finds themselves a long way from Sunset Blvd.

                              1. Um, Yuck, there are NO POTATOS in Zankou's garlic sauce. All you have to do is call and ask. It's just garlic and lemon juice and oil.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: captainhits

                                  Don't know for sure about potatoes, but just garlic, lemon juice, and oil doesn't come close to Zankou. I tried it both ways and the potato route was pretty darn close if not dead on. One of the other clues is that this stuff doesn't melt in a hot oven. It burns like potato would.

                                2. i sure wish i could taste this hallowed zankou garlic sauce!

                                  but if you're in northern virginia, there is a great lebanese "toum" garlic sauce at lebanese taverna. fortunately, the takeout place is only a mile from me.

                                  the marinated roast chicken and lavash bread they have is only to carry the garlic sauce to my mouth. what an addictive flavor!

                                  1. I'm so going to try this. It's one of the few things I genuinely crave after leaving Orange County.