19 Jun 2011
By: LUA JIA MIN
Here is some garlic even non-vampires may baulk at: Black garlic that cost $60 or more for a pack of six bulbs.
However, these days, in chic kitchens, the black garlic is the new, well, black.
A type of fermented garlic, it derives its name from the colour of the cloves after an ageing process. Appearing in the market here about two years ago, the herb has gained devotees and advocates.
Oil painter Choo Keng Kwang, 81, has been eating around half a bulb of black garlic a day for the past few months. Mr Choo, who suffers from psoriasis – a skin disease which results in itchy red patches or flaky scales, decided to give the herb a try after seeing a newspaper advertisement for it.
He says in Mandarin: “The effect was obvious. After three to four days of consuming black garlic, the red patches disappeared. Previously, I’ve tried many skin creams given by doctors and they were not effective.”
He spends about $6 a day on this black garlic diet.
The blackened cloves are available at selected NTUC FairPrice and FairPrice Xtra, Giant hypermarkets and Shop N Save supermarkets. The black garlic at these stores are imported from China.
Black garlic is produced by fermenting whole bulbs of fresh garlic in temperatures of 65 to 80 deg C in a humidity-controlled room for nearly a month. After this, the garlic cloves will have turned black.
But the product at this stage would still not be ready for consumption “as the taste would be too bland”, says Ms Low Gim Noi, 46, managing director of Defu Foodstuff, which sells black garlic.
To achieve a sweet, prune-like taste, the fermented garlic is left to oxidise in a clean room for 45 days.
Black garlic can be eaten raw or cooked in the same manner as fresh garlic, she adds. She recommends cooking black garlic in dishes such as chicken baked rice and bak kut teh.
Singapore General Hospital dietitian Tan Ai Shan says: “Unlike fresh garlic, black garlic is sweeter in taste. The pungent smell and spiciness in fresh garlic is removed during the fermentation process.”
She points to experiments conducted by Japanese researchers in 2007 which suggest that black garlic is more effective in reducing the size of tumours in laboratory mice. The study was published in a Global Science Book journal about medicinal plant science.
However, as the majority of research on black garlic’s health benefits has been conducted on laboratory animals, Ms Tan stresses that “there is still a lack of scientific evidence to support the use of black garlic for health purposes on humans”.
Fermented garlic has greater health benefits than the common variety, says nutritionist Velumani Deepapriya of the Singapore Nutrition and Dietetics Association. “Especially in improving blood circulation and increasing antioxidant levels in the body,” she adds.
This is due to the production of water-soluble amino acid, S-Allylcysteine, which contains antioxidant properties, during fermentation. Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals can lead to heart disease, blocked arteries and cancer.
Business consultant and part-time marathon runner Edward Goh, 50, started eating black garlic last June to lower his cholesterol level.
His cholesterol was considered high at 250mg/dL. According to the Singapore Heart Foundation’s guidelines, an average adult should maintain his total cholesterol level at less than 200mg/dL.
“I was not taking medication because I do not believe in having chemicals in my body.” says Mr Goh. “After eating two cloves of raw black garlic daily for a few weeks and doing constant exercise, my cholesterol level dropped to below 200mg/dL.”
Health reasons aside, Mr Goh, who spends $68 on a pack of six which lasts him around six weeks, is also a fan of the tangy sweet taste of black garlic.
He says: “There’s a balsamic taste I like. It’s really tasty.”
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