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The different types of garlic dipping sauce generally can be classified by the base that is used to hold the garlic. One of the most popular is an oil base that allows the garlic flavor to come through very strongly. A creamy garlic dipping sauce has sour cream or heavy cream as a base, often combined with ingredients such as onion. In Asian cuisine, a vinegar-based garlic dipping sauce, combined with soy sauce or sesame oil, is often used. A very different flavor can be achieved with a cheese-based garlic dipping sauce, especially if the cheese is kept warm in a fondue-style pot.
There are a few ways to infuse garlic flavor into a garlic dipping sauce. It can be gently heated with some ingredients so the flavor is absorbed slowly. Garlic also can be grated directly into a dip, where the flakes and the garlic juice will provide a sharp and pungent taste. When garlic is roasted in an oven, the flavor mellows and develops, the sugars caramelize and the cloves become so soft they can be easily mashed into a paste. In nearly all preparations, the garlic should be allowed to sit for a time in the sauce to allow the strong flavor to distribute throughout the base.
A garlic dipping sauce based on olive oil can be made by slowly heating olive oil in a pan and then adding sliced garlic. The garlic and oil are allowed to cook together until the flavors combine and the garlic has become fragrant. The dipping sauce can have other ingredients added, such as red pepper flakes, salt, sage or Parmesan cheese. A heavier version of the sauce can be made by using butter instead of olive oil or a combination of both. Bread, vegetables and seafood such as lobster all go well with this type of dipping sauce.
A more familiar base for a dipping sauce is sour cream. Raw garlic and onions can be added to sour cream to make a sauce that is good for crackers, vegetables or chips. Diced green onions also can be used in the sauce. Other creamy bases include buttermilk or heavy cream that is slowly reduced in a pan with the garlic and then sometimes thickened with butter or mayonnaise, or accented with some grated nutmeg.
A classic Asian garlic dipping sauce can be made with rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, a healthy amount of chopped garlic and some ginger. This dark sauce has a sharp taste and can be used as a dip for skewered meats, dumplings or any heavy food. A hotter version can be made with vinegar, garlic and hot Thai chili peppers. The sharpness of the vinegar can be reduced by cooking the sauce briefly.
Finally, cheese can be used as a base for a garlic dipping sauce. This can be made with a melting cheese like Swiss that is heated slowly along with the garlic, or it can be made from a processed cheese that comes in liquid form. Diced vegetables like tomatoes or peppers can be mixed into the dipping sauce to provide some texture and a lighter flavor.
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