Asafetida has a malodorous reputation and is often listed as an ingredient that should be avoided. Some people are so sensitive to it that they can smell it in the air, even at very low concentrations. But I find it a useful ingredient to have in my kitchen and especially when cooking Indian food.
I first came across asafetida in Elizabeth David’s fascinating book A Book of Mediterranean Food, published in 1950. She writes “it is the most penetrating of all spices; its pungency can be detected even before the box has been opened”.
In any case, this blog is intended as a starting point for people who want to explore how to choose asafetida and how to get the best results from it. I am not a food scientist so I make no claims about whether or not asafetida is safe for human consumption or whether or not you should use it. The information provided here is based on my own experience with it and therefore may not apply to your experience.
Dear Cook. Welcome to my blog about all things edible. My name is Orin, I’m an ingredient and I’d like to share with you some of my culinary secrets.
Asafetida is a spice that has been used since ancient times, but surprisingly little is known about it outside of the Middle East. It’s one of those ingredients that can make your eyes water if you use too much, but if you use just the right amount it can bring out the flavours in a dish in an amazing way. You see, asafetida has what might be called a specific flavour: it has a fenugreek taste that some describe as “mushroom-like”, others as “garlicky” and others as “slightly farty”. But when you use it with other ingredients that complement its unique bouquet, a whole new world of flavours opens up to you.
Because of its strong flavour, asafetida is usually added towards the end of cooking time, but too much will ruin the taste of any dish. The trick is to control how much flavour goes into your dish by controlling exactly how much asafetida you add and when. That’s why I’m here: I want to help you get the best results
At first sight, asafetida is a very strange spice. It comes from the resin of a plant that grows in Iran and Afghanistan, in the mountains near the Caspian Sea. It has a strong taste, pungent and bitter, somewhere between garlic and onions. If you are not used to it, it can be hard to like.
And yet there is something about asafetida that makes it indispensable for some dishes. Indian cooks – at least those from northern India – wouldn’t dream of making a lentil dish without asafetida; you’ll find it in almost every curry recipe. And no Iranian cookbook would be complete without a whole chapter on asafetida – its preparation, its many uses and its medicinal qualities.
Happily, asafetida keeps well. If you buy small amounts (1/2 oz or so), this means that your supply will last for years. You won’t have to throw any away until you want to change the scent or flavor of your food; then you can just switch to another spice for a while.
What is it?
Asafetida is a spice commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. It has a strong, unpleasant smell but it adds a unique flavor to food.
It’s also known as Devil’s Dung and Food of the Gods, because of the smell, and Hing in India. Some people say that it smells like rotten eggs.
Because of its smell, it’s not used much in western cooking. It’s known as an aid to digestion and helps relieve flatulence and colic in babies. It can be used as an antispasmodic for cramps and gas pains, so it’s often found in herbal teas for stomach problems.
Asafetida is usually sold in dried form or ground into a powder. It has a shelf life of about a year if stored properly.
So how should you choose your asafetida? What are some tips for storing it? And what are some ways to use it?
Asafetida, also sometimes called devil’s dung, is a spice used to flavor Indian curries and other dishes. It is often listed on the ingredients list as hing, but it is actually the dried gum which comes from a large umbelliferous plant in the parsley family.
Taste:Asafetida has an extremely unpleasant odor but it imparts a unique taste to foods when it is cooked with them. The taste of asafetida is difficult to describe, unlike anything else you’ve ever tasted. It brings to mind a combination of old wet shoes, bad eggs and burnt rubber.
The smell of asafetida can be quite overpowering if you are cooking with it for the first time; however, once you become accustomed to using this spice, your sense of smell will acclimate itself to its presence. You’ll notice that when you use it regularly the smell will no longer bother you.
Uses:Asafetida is used in Indian cooking, particularly in lentil dishes and vegetable stews. It’s also used in Middle Eastern cooking and some varieties are used in pickling recipes. In addition to food uses, asafetida can also be applied topically on the skin for medicinal uses
Asafetida is one of the most pungent spices available (and therefore a staple for Indian cooking), and it’s the main ingredient in Lestoil, a well-known brand of drain cleaner. It has been used for at least 5,000 years, which is why it’s sometimes called “Queen of the Herbs” or “Hing” — hing means asafetida in Hindi.
Taste and odor are notoriously difficult to describe. We all know what they’re like when we taste or smell something, but words rarely capture them precisely. I’ll do my best to explain the flavor of asafetida here, but if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me by email.
* In general, I think Indians use too much asafetida in their food. Americans are accustomed to strong flavors from peppers and garlic and onions and chilies, so a little asafetida goes a long way. The French seem to feel about it the same way Americans feel about turmeric — that it’s an acquired taste, worth acquiring because it adds an interesting complexity to food, but not something you want too much of.
* Asafetida is sold in large chunks or little yellow-green gran
Asafetida is a spice that is used extensively in Indian cooking and Persian cooking. It has a distinctive smell, and can be difficult to describe to those who have never smelled it – a cross between garlic and bad breath, according to one writer. But it is also said to be an effective treatment for worm infestations, as well as being useful in the treatment of bronchitis and asthma.
The name comes from the Persian word “asapand” which means “fetid” or “stinking”. The plant was grown in Iran since ancient times and spread across the Middle East. Since medieval times it has been used in Indian medicine as an anti-flatulent, carminative, stimulant and diuretic. It is also reputed to be an aphrodisiac.
The plant grows up to 1 m (39 inches) high with leaves that are about 20 cm (8 inches) long. The leaves have a distinctive smell when crushed. The flowers are yellow-white with purple spots and grow in clusters of three at the end of branches.
The whole plant can be used fresh or dried, but the dried version has more flavour. When buying dried asafetida it may appear light or dark brown; the light version