Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The Mongolian Garlic Crusher
I promised a long time ago that I would write about the Mongolian Garlic Crusher and have decided to do it now, since my salt posting is taking some time - there's just too much to write about salt and I want to give you as much salty juice as possible on my favorite mineral when it's properly done.
So, the Mongolian Garlic Crusher. Just so you know, this is my favorite tool in our apartment, and when I moved from Manhattan to Indianapolis (before landing in Chicago), the one most important thing I took with me was this beautiful rock which gives me so much pleasure in the kitchen.
A little history is important here (and just so you know, if you're here for the 'medicinal benefits', there are some so just bear with me).... I have a lot of love for garlic, much like salt, and I remember getting to know garlic in my life, every step of the way. One of my favorite scenes from a movie is in the fabulous "Goodfellas" with Ray Liotta, where he's in jail with his compadres cooking and they slice garlic with a razor, paper thin. I proceeded to do the paper thin slice method for a long time until I began my journey into crushing garlic.
Growing up in Thailand, I cooked with and ate garlic a lot as it is an integral part of the cuisine there. One of the things that got to me was peeling the skin off the garlic, since I tended to go nuts and use bulbs and bulbs of garlic per meal this was a crucial issue. Someone finally taught me the art of crushing garlic, so that you can easily peel the skin off - wow! Genius. Every step is significant in cooking, no matter how simple and obvious. My garlic obsession evolved into my writing a 90 page dissertation on the "History of Garlic from Antiquity to the Present" and in the process I learned that not only is crushing garlic nice for getting the skin off but it is essential in allowing time for the garlic to release it's enzymatic reactions so that it can transform alliin via the enzyme allinase into allicin and you can harness the most medicinal benefit from it (total time to let it sit post crushing/bruising: 15 mins)! Hallelujah, another great reason to squash my favorite herb.
I went on to live many years crushing garlic with my knife, with the bottoms of bottles (the wine, the olive oil, whatever had a good flat underside), a crok (Thai mortar & pessel) until one day while walking through the Gobi Desert in Mongolia pleasantly hunting rocks, I stumbled across the above pictured Mongolian Garlic Crusher. I lifted this rock up (I was alone in the middle of nowhere, I mean NOWHERE) and thought to myself now this is a garlic crusher - it's perfect! - I can crush garlic happily every day with this thing without having to find a flat bottomed bottle or some lame knife handle! I proceeded to run back to our tents and showed my brother who was with me on the trip at the time, my find. "Look, a Mongolian Garlic Crusher!". He stared at me blankly after looking worried that there was a big Mongolian man about to crush us (aka. the garlic)! I'm not surprised that my bro thought this, albeit briefly, as I had quite the imagination when we travelled through the Gobi Desert, miles and miles of nothing but sand, rocks, and sky with a few camels and people here and there, will do that to you. Needless to say, when I left Mongolia (where it was difficult to find banks with ATM's in Ulaanbaatar that were conveniently open), with barely any cash left, the only things I brought back were: the Mongolian Garlic Crusher, and a few bags of Mongolian Desert salt. In fact, I got stopped in customs along with many other people who were attempting to smuggle what looked like chintzy Buddhas to me. The customs officials pulled out my big beautiful rock, I was petrified they'd take it but I managed to get through with a few odd looks from them and the Buddha smugglers.
Happy in the Gobi desert!
I not only found a garlic crusher but collected different colored rocks to form a large face sculpture!
I have since continued to hunt for garlic crushing rocks for my friends and family, and I did manage to find a decent one on the Welsh coast for my brother. I think it's the best gift to give someone if you can find the right rock, with a nice flat bottom, a good grip, a nice texture and color... It's my most valuable kitchen tool hands down besides a slinky sharp knife.