Like Thai-style fried shallots, crispy fried garlic is a savory, pantry-friendly garnish popular throughout Southeast Asia, where it’s known as krathiem jiaw in Thai and toi phi in Vietnamese. We reach for it all the time to bring allium crunch to vegetables, noodles, stir-fries, curries, salads, homemade chili crisp, and so much more. Preparing your own fried garlic is easy—this recipe provides instructions for making it on the stovetop and in the microwave—and gives you the bonus reward of aromatic fried-garlic oil, a flavor-boosting pantry ingredient in its own right that can be used for making everything from fried rice to mayonnaise.
The key to success for fried garlic lies mostly in timing: it’s important to closely monitor the garlic throughout the cooking process to ensure that it doesn’t end up too dark, which will give it an acrid flavor. As with fried shallots, the garlic needs to be pulled off the heat and drained just as it reaches a pale golden brown; carryover cooking will take it the rest of the way, producing crunchy, golden-brown bits. And the best way to ensure success is to completely set up your workspace before frying, as you’ll need to move quickly at the end of the cooking process.
Once you strain the fried garlic from the oil, you spread it out on two layers of paper towels, season it with salt, and a dust it very lightly with powdered sugar. The sugar-dusting, a trick that I picked up cooking in restaurants, helps to subtly temper the natural bitterness of the garlic, without making it sweet or sacrificing its crunch. Once cooled, the crispy fried garlic and aromatic fried-garlic oil can be stored for weeks, although with all their possible uses, it’s highly unlikely they’ll last that long in your kitchen.