Do You Want Fries With That?: Aioli (and Basic Mayo)

Looking back over the past half dozen or so posts, I realized that I appeared to be slightly obsessed with bread products. I suppose this is a natural off shoot of living in this part of China, since Shanghai is not famed for its flatbreads or brownies or bagels. Those in more Uyghur areas can revel in their yeast products but things are a little more limited here. Hence, my over-stuffed Baked Things category.

However, one cannot live by bagels alone!

Today, I am leaving the giant bag of flour in the cupboard under the stove and I’m veering into the fascinating world of condiments. I’m making aioli. Which is basically just posh garlicky mayo. It can be used in a mayonnaise fashion as well as for a bazillion other things (see here).

If you don’t like garlic, omit that (and the mustard, if you want) and call it plain old mayonnaise.  I don’t tend to use much mayo because I find the commercial jars of it way too sweet. Particularly here, as we mainly have the Japanese Kewpie brand squeeze-bags of it, which are super-sweet.  This recipe gives you about half a cup or so of really quite nice, light, tangy aioli, which can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days maximum. Remember, we’ve got a raw yolk here and no hideously complex chemical preservatives to keep it fresh for months on end. I’m using mine with tuna on a toasted bagel. Marvellous.

I got this particular recipe from Epicurious but it’s pretty much the same as all the others out there.

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil


It's actually very simple

As you can see, you don’t need much to do this. Separate the yolk from the egg whites using vaguely remembered Grade 7 home-economics  egg-separating skills. Juice about 1/4 of a lemon. Assemble your garlic, mustard and oils.

This is as mashed as my giant knife could muster

I used 3 cloves of garlic rather than the 2 called for because I want to be a social pariah (and because I really quite like garlic). I minced and mashed mine with my enormous knife, with the aid of a little salt for friction.

Yes, it looks rather gross

I put the lemon, yolk and mustard in one bowl, to be mixed together. I don’t have Dijon so I used the grainy stuff. It’s fine.

Slightly less gross

Whisk the yolk, lemon and mustard together briefly. At this point, you’ll want to get the oil out. I used the olive oil and sunflower oil mix (see the recipe above) but I’m sure you could do 100% olive or 100% sunflower or whatever. I wouldn’t recommend, say, sesame oil or peanut oil though, as their flavours are rather strong. Go neutral.

Almost looks edible, really

Above you can see what it looks like after adding about half of the oil. The trick here is to add the oil a dribble at a time and just whisk the hell out of it. You’re looking to emulsify it. If you see the egg and oil separating, whisk more. You can’t do this one half-assed. You’ll need a relatively brief but intense burst of hand exertion. My fingers ached by the end but it was a temporary inconvenience for a rather awesome result.

Look, aioli!

This is the final aioli, after adding all the oil and the mashed garlic and beating the hell out of it. It should be thick, though it probably won’t be as thick as you expect a commercial mayonnaise to be. It’ll be a bit more like, say, ranch dressing.  The oil should be totally integrated and not hanging out in little oily pockets around the edge of the bowl.

Still life with aioli on a Shanghai windowsill

I’m storing my aioli in an old jam jar in the fridge.  You can use it straight away, though I found it’s a bit nicer after an hour or so to allow the flavours to meld and the thickness to set.

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  1. Alexandra van Vianen says:

    I think your kitchen could use a blender investment! Impressed you did this by hand and have shown it is possible. So simple I want to try it, though I think my diet is healthier in China sans Mayonnaise

    1. MaryAnne says:

      I’ve thought about buying a blender of some sort (or at least a basic food processor) but then I think about how little counter or storage space we already have and get overwhelmed and just go back to doing things by hand…. It wasn’t particularly hard- maybe just a few minutes of whisking. Actually would have been easier with a whisk rather than a fork…

  2. TracyAnn0312 says:

    I do agree on what Alexandra tell you. It is important that you have buy your own blender. It is very important to have blender so that you will not stir up manually.

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