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I'm pretty sure that this is an intended flavor; there's a great and authentic middle eastern restaurant nearby and their hummus tastes noticeably tangy. Others in the Yelp reviews have commented on the same flavor, so it's not a bad batch. It's almost as if there's a fermented ingredient that has the same kind of "tang" as kimchi. Their babaganoush doesn't have this same tang.

Is there a secret fermented ingredient in some hummus recipes that might give off this flavor?

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Wouldn't it be more reliable to ask at the restaurant? I'd love to hear their answer. –  slim Jul 3 '13 at 11:59
    
I've frequently purchased hummus in the supermarket which had citric acid added. I imagine that traditional hummus could be eaten slightly fermented, and current quick-and-safe techniques intentionally sour it to give it the original, fermented taste. –  rumtscho Jul 13 '13 at 16:06

3 Answers 3

[not a definitive answer]

Making good hummus is non-trivial. I think roasting sesame seeds is as volatile as roasting coffee beans with a few seconds or degrees changing the flavour drastically.

It's quite possible the tangy flavour comes from the way they process their sesame seeds. I've had Israeli hummus (from Jerusalem) and it tasted very different from the stuff you get elsewhere. Much smoother and more 'settled' flavour, and likely similar to the tang you describe (almost umami). The ingredients didn't have anything specific listed that could do that. It also could be the lemons or the zest.

Anecdotally, a local hummus manufacturer told me he gets his sesame seeds from that part of middle east because they lead to better tasting hummus.

Next time you're there, please ask the chef. most of the time, they'll share something new with you. (I've been curious as well ever since tasting that particular hummus).

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To clarify, it's an almost carbonated effervescent flavor/feeling just like kimchi. I'll ask them. –  Jeff Axelrod Jun 21 '13 at 20:06

The recipes I've seen include both lemon juice as yogurt. I suppose the tangy flavor comes from the lemon.

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I've made hummus from scratch multiple times. The effervescent/fermented flavor you taste may be due to how long the restaurant soaked the chickpeas for. There are different schools of thought on what makes the most nutritious hummus: using chickpeas that have been soaked 1-2 days before they sprout or 2+ days, which means that they would have sprouted by then. I have heard of people using chickpeas that have sprouted quite a bit, after a soaking duration of 4-5 days. Apparently doing so eliminates enzyme inhibitors. I have also read of people using raw, sprouted chickpeas to make hummus, which I have not tasted.

I think that the flavor you are referring to may be due to the restaurant using heavily sprouted chickpeas or raw, sprouted chickpeas to make the hummus. That's my guess.

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