Toum is a Lebanese garlic sauce used much like aioli or mayonnaise, but made from whole garlic cloves, oil, lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and ice water. It’s a garlic lover’s ultimate condiment for grilled meats, fish, shawarma, and for dipping with fries. This sauce is well known for packing a potent garlicky punch, so beware, a little bit goes a long way.
There are several ways of emulsifying the garlic and oil together for toum, such as using a food processor, a wire whisk, or a mortar and pestle. Most recipes use a food processor, a head of garlic, and at least a cup of oil, which makes about a jarful. I actually prefer making smaller quantities for the reason that toum tastes best when it’s freshly made and the flavor mellows after refrigeration. Unfortunately, seven or nine cup food processors are generally too large for attempting smaller batches of toum because it’s very difficult to achieve the proper emulsification. A mini prep food processor size would work better or you could try making it by hand.
I remember the first time watching my Lebanese sister-in-law magically grind the grated pale yellow garlic bits and salt into a smooth paste using a mere mortar and pestle, then skillfully adding drops of oil, and then eventually the lemon juice and ice water to produce this snowy-white creamy sauce that was simply incredible. For some the hit of garlic may be too strong, so to remedy this, she will add cubes of cooked potato to build body while using less oil and mellowing the flavor.
The beauty of this method is that it’s easy to make a single serving, double or triple the ingredients for just the amount of toum needed for a meal. Though not quite as smooth and light as with a food processor, toum made by hand, tastes equally delicious and the smaller portion makes it easier to adjust the strength of garlic and texture.