The method for chopping or mincing garlic is very similar to the way you chop, or dice, any vegetable. But there are a couple of little tricks that it’s worth learning, because garlic is so common in Asian, American, and Mediterranean food. You can buy bottles of pre-chopped garlic, but they aren’t nearly as good. You can use garlic powder, but that is vile. You can use a garlic press, but to be honest, they don’t actually make things any quicker or easier — and they’re a bastard to clean. Get a sharp knife, and learn how to use it.
Before we start, a little terminology. The whole bulb of garlic (yup, just like a tulip bulb) is sometimes called a “head of garlic.” Each little segment is called a clove. Don’t confuse these two things, or you’re liable to make a pretty egregious food mistake.
So, the first thing to do is get the peel off the garlic cloves. You can do this with your fingernails, or a small sharp knife. But by far the most efficient way to do it, is to crush each clove under the flat of a knife, pushing down with heel of your hand,
When it is loose like this, you can very easily pull the skin off, and, boom, you’re half-way there.
Now, you slice the garlic into little matchsticks, or into chunks. Realistically, unless you’re making a dressing or a dip, you’ll probably be frying the garlic in oil before you use it. This takes the raw, rough flavour away, and makes it sweet. So you can usually get away with using big pieces. But, if you want to mince the garlic finely, first sliver, or julienne the garlic …
and then very finely chop crossways, across the slivers, to get a fine dice (or a mince).
Some recipes (especially dressings, like the sauce for sesame noodles) call for the garlic to be crushed. Once the garlic is finely minced, you can crush it, using the side of the knife. Just drag the blade over the garlic, until all the bits are smooshed flat, and you see a bunch of garlic juice come out. You can even use the back of a spoon, or a pestle, as a blunt instrument.
Something that helps the crushing process a lot, is to use salt (or sugar) as an abrasive. If the recipe calls for salt or sugar, mix a little bit of it with the minced garlic and proceed to crush it all together into something like a paste.