Mayu (Black Garlic Oil) for Ramen Recipe

Cooking garlic all the way to burnt provides stunning color and complex flavor.

A bowl of black garlic oil.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Cooking the garlic in sesame oil can get too bitter, so use a neutral oil instead.
  • To achieve maximum flavor, cook garlic very slowly, and remove as soon as it reaches the color you want,

Tonkotsu ramen's foundation is the rich, creamy pork broth of Japan's Kyushu region, but if you're making each element from scratch (noodles and chashu, too), it's not an easy task. Each element takes time to prepare before they're ready to combine in the bowl just before serving, and some of those elements take hours or even days if you want to do it right.

Mayu, black garlic oil, is one of these elements. Like rolling in the snow naked right next to a hot tub or moving out to the West Coast (even temporarily), burnt garlic oil is one of those things that seems like an inherently bad idea. That is, until you actually try it. For those of you who like to mix raw garlic into their ramen, I'd suggest giving mayu a shot.

Mayu can be a little tricky to make—it's all about a controlled burn. As you slowly cook grated garlic in oil, it undergoes the Maillard reaction—the series of chemical reactions that cause foods to turn brown and adds complexity to their flavor as new aromatic compounds are formed.

Normally, the standing wisdom on the Maillard reaction is to get your food as brown as possible without actually turning black—an indication that it's burnt and acrid, and bitter flavors will begin to appear. With mayu, you throw that wisdom out the window and take your garlic well past the stage that a French chef would allow.

But here's the thing: Let it get black too fast and you end up cooking all the flavor out of it, leaving you with an acrid, burnt mess. You have to cook it very slowly, removing the garlic from heat as soon as it reaches black, so that some of its flavor can still be preserved.

Some folks cook their garlic in sesame oil from the start. I find that the sesame oil becomes overly bitter if you do this, so I prefer to cook in neutral canola oil, blending in some roasted sesame oil in after the garlic is done cooking to preserve its fresh flavor.

A bowl of tonkotsu ramen broth with drops of mayu black garlic oil.

The result is a pitch-black condiment that not only looks awesome floating on top of your soup, but also adds a layer of complexity that you never knew existed.

September 2013

Recipe Facts

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Active: 15 mins
Total: 15 mins
Serves: 8 servings
Makes: 1 cup

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

  • 10 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 3 1/2 tablespoons)

  • 1/4 cup roasted sesame oil

Directions

  1. Combine canola oil and garlic in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until it starts to brown. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until garlic turns completely black, about 10 minutes (garlic will become very sticky in the process).

    Garlic cooking in oil until black.
  2. Transfer mixture to a heat-proof bowl and add sesame oil. Transfer to a blender and blend on high speed until completely pulverized, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a sealable container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Special Equipment

Blender

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
126 Calories
14g Fat
1g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 126
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 14g 17%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 1g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 7mg 1%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 15mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)