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This amazing ingredient is a great example of just how different the same food can taste in separate forms. Black garlic is thought to have originated in Korea, and has been used in Asia for many years. Recently its use has become much more common in the West, notably in high-end kitchens. It is caramelised garlic, subjected over several weeks to gentle heat, which turns the cloves black and sticky. The process is often incorrectly referred to as fermentation, but in fact no microbial activity takes place.
Black garlic’s flavour is sweet and sticky, with notes of balsamic vinegar and tamarind bringing a delicate sour balance. It has a strong umami kick, and also smoky undertones. Used in cooking it will enrich and add depth. It works very well with Asian food, for instance added to a beef and tofu stirfry or a vegetarian noodle dish. In European cooking, black garlic makes a wonderful risotto when combined with some mushrooms (particularly girolles), and it matches extremely well with kale. Black garlic can also be eaten as a snack, and it is delicious on crusty bread with a thin slice of manchego cheese.
Rich in antoxidants (it has more than twice as many as fresh garlic), black garlic has long been thought to be very beneficial to health, and in Thailand it is even thought to promote longevity.
This is a really interesting ingredient, great to experiment with and delicious every time. All in all, a distinctive addition to any kitchen’s ‘box of tricks’!