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Feb 24, 2011 09:04 PM

Zankou's garlic sauce recipe

Great post, came home with Chicken Shawarma from Amir's (why Amir's doesn't have garlic sauce I don't know) and thought I have Zankou's sauce in the fridge, no problem!
Wrong, had about two teaspoons in a yellowing container way back in the slums of my fridge.
Panicked, I found your post and it set me off on my quest.

This is a good recipe and I'll use it in the future for dips and such, but this is not Zankou's, it's Toum with a starch extender added (I didn't know that until about two hours ago, started my search with your recipe and worked toward Zankou).
The Zankou recipe, as far as I can tell, is only Garlic, Salt, Lemon Juice and Oil, nothing more.
The trick is to mix it all up just right so that you get a heavy emulsion that gives you the thick consistency of Zankou's.
I knew very little about emulsions yesterday, if you don't I recommend spending a few minutes reading up, it's truly worth the time.
To get a good thick emulsion you need water, a "mortar" agent and lots of oil.
Garlic juice is a good emulsion agent, just as eggs are in mayonnaise, but the secret is to get the juice, to do that you need to either mash or press your garlic.
Throwing solid garlic into the blender will give you lots of flavor, but little binding activity, which is why the potatoes are needed for thickening.
Press most of your garlic and leave a few cloves whole.
Follow your recipe as described, adding the pressed garlic to lemon juice and salt.
Very slowly add a dribble of oil as the blender is running, once most of the oil is in, add the remaining whole garlic.
The pressed garlic will give you the emulsifying effect that will make the sauce very thick and the whole garlic will give it the grain of Zankou's.
If you add all of the garlic in the beginning you will get fantastic sauce, but the garlic will all be pulverized leaving a perfectly smooth sauce, but the flavor is unchanged.

My finished product is exactly the flavor and thickness of Zankou's, the only difference being that it is slightly lighter and fluffier than the original, but only a bit, I actually like it better.
I'm guessing that the difference has to do with the type of oil used, I used only Canola, Zankou probably uses a proprietary blend to get the heavier texture.
Just made this an hour ago, bet that after a day in the fridge it will be even closer to the original.

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  1. I believe you are correct. I knew there were no potatoes because I have food ocd's, one of which is about anything that is normally eaten hot being cold (ie potatoes) so as soon as I read that I called them and told them I have food allergies and wanted to know what was in the garlic sauce. (Little secret for you recipe fiends. You'll get all the ingredients for any recipe at any restaurant without a second thought. There's no such thing as proprietary when it comes to someones health ;)

    2 Replies
    1. re: captainhits

      That is a really, really good (and devious!) idea.
      I think I just suddenly developed an allergy to everything I like.

      1. re: captainhits

        See my post from 2006 up a little ways.

      2. Thanks, Reagunn! I will give this a shot. I have to say though, that I still think there are potatoes in zankou's for a couple of reasons. I believe that most emulsifications will separate over time (although mayonnaise doesn't so I might be wrong.) The main reason, though is that, I am pretty sure that your mixture will melt if put into a hot oven. Zankou's just burns. That always stumped me until I found out about the potato. I haven't tried this yet, so maybe yours burns too, but it seems like it wouldn't really.

        1. Ok, sorry for being repetitive. It has been so long since I have been on this thread that I forgot that I had already said that. (I remember reading the thread, but I totally forgot posting in it.) So, does yours burn in the oven?

          6 Replies
          1. re: nexus77

            I've never seen a board reply to a new post on an old thread so quickly.
            Is this what happens when you join a foodie board?
            (Great, now am I going to end up running all over town to find a truck like my foodie friends? I don't want to be that guy, I hate that guy.)

            Anyway, thanks alot, now you have me doing chemistry experiments at midnight. ;-)
            I read your comment about the browning earlier and tried it with the last dollop of Zankou's that was left, as it piqued my curiosity, before I made the batch that worked (there were a couple of failed attempts).
            Didn't bake it but put it on a hot fry pan.
            The Zankou did secrete a large amount of oil, but the bulk browned as if it were solid food.
            This isn't really surprising if you consider that there is a whole Garlic bulb mixed into 1/2 cup of oil.
            Once it cooled a bit I tasted the browned clump that remained in the small pool of oil and guess what it was?
            Fried garlic.
            I'm betting that the simple plant material from the garlic is what is making it burn in the oven.
            After reading your reply I did the same with my concoction and the results were identical.

            Zankou's does separate a bit when left alone for a while, but just a bit, similar to the separation you get with old store bought mayo.

            One poster had a theory about using potato flakes or a restaurant grade potato based extender/thickener and I wouldn't be surprised if Zankou does add some of that but I'm fairly confident that they don't use mashed potatoes.
            If you look at their sauce you can see grain, you'd never get that with mashed potatoes but would with flakes.

            1. re: Reagunn

              Theres a place called Al Hamra Cafe, few reviews here and theirs tastes identical to Zankous to me. I know the owner and he's confirmed to me its only oil garlic and lemon.

              1. re: captainhits

                Awesome! Great experiment, Reagunn! I am jealous that you have the ability to do the comarison. I live in Nashville now, and greatly miss the joy of Zankou. Anyway, I will consider the mystery solved. I will be running to the store tomorrow to pick up the... oh wait, I already have it all. Amazing how such a simple thing can be so delicious. I wonder if olive oil would work better or worse than canola. Now the only thing to figure out is how Zankou marinates their chicken for the tarna. ...mmm, tarna.

                1. re: nexus77

                  It's 3am in Nashville....=]

                  And I think that Olive oil might be overpowering, when it's fresh even the Canola leaves a bit of an aftertaste that I hope will dissipate over night as it congeals.

                    1. re: captainhits

                      you beat me to it - grapeseed oil is definitely the way to go for neutral flavor.