The country of Chad may seem like a strange place to order a helping of gumbo, but it’s an experience one must try to truly understand. N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, is almost seven thousand miles away from Louisiana, but these two locales have one thing in common: sinfully good gumbo.
An authentic gumbo in N’Djamena consists of goat meat, okra, onions and garlic in a light brown sauce served with a side of rice. It’s spicy, but not to the point that it will anger one’s stomach or induce the sweats. No need to even sip a beverage, as it’s not the “gods are mad at you” kind of hot.
The dish has an elegant infusion of garlic that makes its presence known without being overpowering. The cloves are finely chopped and added as the goat meat and okra sauté, prior to the sauce being prepared.
The okra is cut on a bias for character, but the local delicacy doesn’t need artsy cutting board work to be memorable. The medium-well meat coated with robust brown sauce earns fanfare on its own.
Spicy cuisines like this traditional Chadian dish embrace the rich flavor garlic adds to culinary undertakings. Long ago, garlic’s heady essence sparked an international love affair with dining tables that won’t end anytime soon.
The aroma of garlic may be pungent, but the taste cannot be denied.
Whether you’re tempted by exotic takes on bayou favorites or would prefer a homey slice of Italian bread that bursts with garlicky zest in your mouth, you can indulge without digestive fear. There are many varieties of garlic that won’t awaken the indigestion gods, and they await you at your local health food store.
The Breakdown On Garlic
Enjoyed by foodies for its delicious taste and health-conscious eaters for its nutritional benefits, garlic is an essential staple in most kitchens. What garlic lovers may not know is that not all cloves are created equal. All garlic is broken down into two types: softneck and hardneck. The former is far more common, but the latter is milder and easier to consume.
Softneck garlic tends to be spicy and can be hard on the digestive track. The cloves normally found in produce sections are softneck garlic, which is sold year round. A few varieties of hardneck garlic are spicy too, but there are many mild choices, which may appeal to those with sensitive stomachs.
Hardneck garlic is a little harder to come by, but is known for its range of savory flavors. Most grocers don’t stock hardneck garlic because of its shorter shelf life. It’s harvested in mid to late summer, and some varieties don’t last through November. Fear not, it can be found in many health food stores, grown in gardens, or ordered online from farms across the country.
Matt Visser, of Territorial Seed Company in Oregon, has grown over 200 varieties of garlic. Visser finds that California Early, Silver White, and S & H Silverskin are the most popular types of softneck garlic sold nationwide. German Red and German White are the hardneck bestsellers. German White is also Visser’s favorite old heirloom variety because the cloves are easy to peel and “awesome for cooking.”
Chefs and diners with refined palates may find the subtle differences in assorted varieties of garlic worthy of extra shopping excursions. Whether one partakes in African gumbo or classic spaghetti and meatballs, there’s one ingredient that isn’t easily dismissed. Every clove may not be equal, but garlic’s flavorful contribution to dishes is beloved the world over.
Contributed by Christine Edwards
Above garlic photo: Photo courtesy of Yevgeniya Shal via Shutterstock.