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What Is Toum?

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  • Written By: B. Chisholm
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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Toum is a traditional creamy garlic dipping sauce from Lebanon. It can be eaten on its own spread on bread or flat breads, or as an accompaniment to almost any dish. While toum is simple in its ingredients, it requires some time and skill to make, as it is an emulsion.

Traditionally, toum was made using a mortar and pestle but nowadays a food processor or hand-held blender is often used instead. It consists of four basic ingredients: garlic, salt, oil and lemon juice. Fresh garlic cloves are first peeled and sometimes blanched in milk, if a slightly less pungent final product is required. The garlic and salt are then mashed together into a paste.

The oil and lemon juice are added to the paste usually in small amounts, alternating the oil with the lemon juice until everything has been added. This is done slowly to prevent the mixture from splitting and the ingredients are then blended together carefully. The final product should be light and creamy and can be refrigerated for weeks. Toum is best served at room temperature.

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A delicious and popular way of eating toum is simply spread over bread. This is often served as a starter before the main meal, or snack while waiting for dinner. Lebanese cuisine incorporates various breads, from flat breads or pitas to Manakeesh, a pizza-like bread topped with herbs such as Zaathar, a mixture of oregano, thyme, basil and salt. The toum can be spread on the bread plain or added as an accompaniment to meat or vegetable fillings.

Lebanese cuisine incorporates numerous dips or spreads including toum. Fresh ingredients like garlic, olive oil and lemon juice are used liberally. Other well-known dips include Hummus, Tahini and Baba Ghanoush. Hummus is made of chick peas, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and tahini, while tahini is sesame seed paste, which is often mixed with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Baba Ghanoush is made from egg plants, lemon, garlic, tahini and spices such as paprika and cumin.

The mezze platter is a popular way of eating in Mediterranean countries, including Lebanon. The platter consists of many small dishes, served with bread. They usually include both cold and hot dishes and incorporate meats such as kebabs, most commonly and vegetables. Mostly the meal is eaten using the hands. Lebanese culture sees meals as a social time, making the sharing of a mezze platter ideal.

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