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Garlic – Gkratiem

by Kasma Loha-unchit

See also Kasma's information on Shallots (Hawm Daeng).

Garlic HeadGarlic (gkratiem): This infamous member of the onion family finds its way into just about every savory Thai dish, giving the background flavor that enriches all sorts of dishes, from mild to extra spicy. It is crushed, chopped and minced for stir-fried dishes; pounded to paste for curry pastes and hot-and-sour sauces and salad dressings; roasted and mashed to add a mild, sweet flavor and smoky dimension to chilli sauces; and sliced, chopped and fried to make crispy garlic and garlic oil to flavor soups, salads and noodle dishes. It is also pickled to nibble on in whole cloves with appetizers and snacks.

For fried garlic (gkratiem jiow) and garlic oil (nahm man gkratiem), chop the garlic evenly, not too finely nor too coarsely, or slice into thin ovals, and fry in hot oil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to a uniform golden brown. Use both fried garlic pieces and oil, or for recipes that call only for fried garlic pieces, strain them from the oil with a fine, wire-mesh skimmer. Reserve the wonderfully fragrant, garlic-infused oil for stir-frying. Fried garlic is available pre-packaged in plastic containers from Asian markets. Choose a brand with garlic pieces that are loose and crispy rather than lumped together in a soggy wad. A fairly good product is made by the Joo Lee Trading Co. of Malaysia, labeled simply as “Fried Garlic,” but it really is very easy to make your own with fresh garlic for a fresher flavor.

To roast garlic, cut the root tip off of each clove but leave the skin on. Place on a pan in a hot oven (450° F.) and roast until they are soft and slightly charred (about 10 minutes). Do not brush with oil. Garlic cloves may also be roasted on a dry pan over a burner set at medium heat, turning frequently until softened through. Cutting off the root tip before roasting prevents the garlic cloves from popping and making a sticky mess in your oven or on your stove. Squeeze the softened garlic out from their skin and add to dishes for a pleasing smoky flavor. In Thailand, garlic cloves are usually roasted in charcoal braziers, giving them an even smokier aroma. Sold in most Southeast Asian markets, pickled garlic (gkratiem dong) from Thailand comes in glass jars in whole heads and has a pleasant sweet and sour taste. Peel off the fibrous skin into cloves for nibbling.

The amount of garlic to use in a recipe is not critical since much of Thai food is highly flavored with many other ingredients. If you like it, use more; if not, cut back. Because clove size can vary considerably, depending on the variety and whether the clove comes from the outside or inside of the bulb, here is a rough guide: An average head has about 16-20 cloves and yields approximately 1/4 cup of finely chopped garlic, or 4-5 cloves chop into roughly one tablespoon. Asian garlic, similar to the variety grown in Thailand, generally has smaller cloves with papery-thin skin and can simply be smashed up and added to dishes, skin and all; double or triple the number of cloves to make up for their size.

Our Ingredients Index contains links to many more Thai ingredients.

Copyright © 2000 Kasma Loha-unchit in Dancing Shrimp. All rights reserved.

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