“The flavor is something between tamarind, licorice and garlic,” explains Russell Bateman, executive chef at the famous Grove restaurant in Hertfordshire in the South of England. Recently, he has taken to adding a mystery item to some dishes.
“People think it’s licorice. It does look a bit like garlic, but they like being intrigued,” he says.
Bateman’s secret ingredient is black garlic, a product that hit the market only five years ago but has already become a darling of food lovers. The sticky cloves are simply regular garlic that has been fermented for a month.
“People think that it originated in South Korea,” but that’s a myth,” says Scott Kim, CEO of the California-based company Black Garlic. “My company was first to mass-produce black garlic in 2005. At first it was hard to get people interested because they didn’t like the look of it.” But then a San Francisco restaurant started using it, and food writers noticed. Between 2007 and 2008, Kim’s sales grew by 300 percent.
Today, sales of black garlic are growing not just in North America but in Europe, too — and in South Korea. High-end grocery chains now carry the product. “Black garlic has become a darling of high-end restaurants,” notes Morey Kanner, a professor at the Culinary Institute of America. “It’s expensive, but it’s easy to cook with. You can use it in risotto, lamb and other roasted dishes — or by itself with bread and olive oil.” Other chefs use it in mashed potatoes or on pizza, or puree it for salad dressings and sauces. Scott Kim, for his part, recommends bananas dipped in pureed black garlic blended with honey. There’s even black garlic chocolate.