Heating oil in our wok, we add a medley of vegetables: onions, carrots, bell peppers. This dish smells good, but something is missing. We add a teaspoon of minced garlic, and 30 seconds later fellow Kahikians trickle into our test kitchen, tracing the mouthwatering aroma. That’s the power of garlic.
Garlic is an essential ingredient in Asian cuisine. In fact, every single one of our sauces contains garlic. Beyond blending into sauces, different regions of Asia use garlic in their own unique ways. Here are four different Asian styles for cooking with garlic.
The most common Asian use for garlic is to crush and add it to a stir-fry. Garlic burns easily, so reserve crushed and minced garlic to add at the end. Alternatively, for greater impact, flavor the oil at the beginning with crushed whole or sliced garlic. Cook until lightly browned, and then remove the garlic with a slotted spoon. Reserve garlic to reincorporate at the end.
This form of garlic preparation is popular in several Asian cuisines, including Tiawanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Pickling whole cloves takes the bite out of garlic to the point where it can be consumed raw as a condiment. In Vietnam, it’s common to serve pickled garlic with the popular noodle bowl, pho. Try pickling your own garlic at home with this flavorful Pickled Garlic Recipe from Growing a Greener World.
Korean BBQ has popularized this method of cooking garlic. Koreans slice garlic cloves into thick chunks and roast them on their unique Korean BBQ grill. Then they roll the slices into a lettuce wrap along with bulgogi (thinly sliced beef) and vegetables. To grill garlic on your outdoor grill, place a few peeled cloves on foil and drizzle with oil. Cook around 30 minutes until tender.
Due to its high amount of natural oils, garlic can be easily creamed into a paste. In Southeast Asian cuisine, garlic paste most commonly appears in sambal. Sambal is a popular condiment consisting of chili paste, garlic paste, and a blend of other seasonings. If you like spicy foods, find sambal in the Asian section of your grocery store and try it on hamburgers.
From enjoying in a stir-fry to consuming raw as a condiment, these four different ways to prepare garlic each have their own applications. Try all four methods, and tweet us @KahikiFoods with your favorite way to eat garlic.