It’s the alchemy that turns juice into wine, the special process that gives kimchi it’s kick, and what endows soy sauce and fish sauce with that umami je ne sais quoi. It’s fermentation, a foodie hot button of late. These days fermentation is working its magic on an all-time favorite ingredient: garlic.
But this ingredient isn’t new. It’s been used in Asian cooking for years. Some believe it to be healthy and curative. Websites from Asia promote it for “recovery from prostate disease”, “good for diabetic and hypertensive patient,” and “ageing effectively.”
Black garlic is the common term for fermented whole heads of garlic. The difference is that black garlic doesn’t have the harsh, burn-y flavor of raw garlic, nor the pungent, (sometimes) bitter taste of roasted garlic. The result of the fermentation process are creamy smooth, spreadable cloves that, like soy sauce and fish sauce, are rich in free glutamates, otherwise known as savory goodness. It’s also got a sweet edge, like well-aged balsamic vinegar, so it pairs well with everything from chicken to vegetables to dessert. Yes, garlic for dessert.
I’ve seen it on menus at Starbelly in San Francisco’s Castro, Bix in North Beach, and Ubuntu in Napa. Want to play with it in your own kitchen? Visit the black garlic store.
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