Even if you’re the healthiest person out, you know at some stage this winter some suit on a bus or train is going to splutter and cough everywhere he can to make you sick. Whenever I feel a flu festering, I order a big ol’ bowl of black garlic ramen. And bam, we’re back in business.
Okay, yes, black garlic isn’t super photogenic – but even in an age of Instagram, we shouldn’t judge food by its looks. Black garlic is a health food for those who couldn’t care less about health food: yes, it’s packed full of restorative amino acids, but first-most, it tastes bloody great.
“But what is this emo cousin of garlic? How is it made?” you ask.
Take whole garlic bulbs and heat-cure them for about a month. With a lack of water, the garlic’s sugars and amino acids create melanoidin (also found in coffee and wholemeal bread), which gives the garlic its new look.
The result? Cloves so soft they can be spread with a butter knife: handy, since you’ll want to put it on everything.
As for the taste, the fermentation results in more mellow garlic notes, transforming the overpowering tangy taste into a balance of sweet and tart notes reminiscent of balsamic vinegar, albeit with an umami twist. And it works in so. many. things.
Okay, so the first test has to be garlic bread, right? At Brisbane restaurant Gauge, they bake a black garlic loaf with treacle and serve it with brown butter. That’s pretty tricky, but we reckon you could go the at-home version for a snack, or pair it with soup to cure what ails you.
Ramen is a great pairing, too. If you make your own, a bit of black garlic in the broth will make sure you slurp it down to the last drop. Be sure to keep an eye out for it on the menu at your fave ramen place, too.
You’ve probably seen black garlic pop up on menus everywhere the past few years. Like most food trends though, black garlic is far from new. It’s been loved in Korea for ~4,000 years (though some mate in the UK reckons he invented it in 2014, which, um, sure), meaning you have a lot to catch up on.
Take inspo from Sydney’s Dead Ringer, who pair a Black Angus Sirloin with black garlic mustard, or combine P.TV’s fave cheese burrata with black garlic and pickled onions like they do at Melbourne favourite Bar Liberty.
Meanwhile, Sydney Opera House’s Bennelong takes the sausage roll to new heights with a pork belly roll with slow-cooked carrots and black garlic, made to order. Goals.
Otherwise, we’d recommend adding some black garlic bulbs to your next roast chook or lamb, or give your next pasta an umami burst. That’s what Sydney’s Sotto Sopra does for their fire spaghetti mancini with sardines, black garlic, chilli and bread crumbs.
Whoa. (Photo: Chris Chen/Sotto Sopra)
“Yes, I want this now. But where can I find such an ingredient?” you ask.
You can sometimes find it in supermarkets so keep an eye for it, and Korean grocers are worth a look too. Generally though, you’ll have to head online to find these bad boy bulbs, but hey, aren’t you online right now? It’s not that hard. Find your new fave at Gourmet Grocer, Garlicious Grown and NTP Health Products.