What is asafetida? Little-Known Spice

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Some people say asafetida is an acquired taste. But make no mistake, this ingredient has a distinct flavor, and it’s not for everyone.

Asafetida is a spice derived from the plant Ferula assa-foetida, Fructus assa-foetidi or gum assa-foetida. Commonly found in Indian cooking, it is also frequently used to season food in Iran and Afghanistan. It’s known as heeng in Hindi and is often used in lentil dishes.

Taste and Aroma Asafoetida comes from the Persian word “asa,” which means bitter, and “fetid,” which means stinking. This aptly describes its flavor and aroma. Many describe its flavor as similar to garlic or onions, but there are many who find it to be pungent or even “revolting.” And while you may find it difficult to detect any scent when raw, it gives off a very potent smell when cooked with other ingredients.

There are two common types of asafoetida: one is made from the resin of the Ferula plant; the other is made from the dried rhizome (root). The resin comes in hard cakes made up of many small pieces.

What is asafetida?

Asafetida is an exotic spice that is known by many names: hing, heeng, jowar and ting. It has an unmistakable sulfurous aroma and flavor, which are described as being similar to garlic or onions. It grows wild in the deserts of Iran and Afghanistan, but it is also cultivated in India where it is popularly used in vegetarian cooking. Asafetida is also used in Chinese medicine.

The name “hing” is derived from the Persian word “haima”, which means “fumigation”. This refers to its traditional use as an insect repellent. The odor of this root herb can be quite strong; some people even have allergic reactions to it. In ancient times, the Greeks used it as a form of crowd control!

It can be found in Indian and Middle Eastern markets, although it may not always be available fresh in its natural form. However you can find white or yellow powdered forms of this interesting spice at most specialty grocers or online stores such as Amazon. You might even find it listed under other names such as tragacanth gum or gum dragon.”

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Asafetida, or devil’s dung, is a spice derived from the dried latex exuded by a plant native to Afghanistan. The taste is quite strong, but it can be used in small amounts to add flavor to dishes without contributing smell. The smell of cooking asafetida has been compared to the smell of asphalt.

Its name originates from the Persian “as-hafeth”, meaning “odoriferous”. The English word “foetid” comes from the same source.

The use of asafoetida in food has diminished with the introduction of garlic and onion powder in Western cookery. It was once used widely, but is now less common. In Indian cuisine, it is available as a spice in powdered form. It is also used in Ayurvedic medicine, and can be found in some forms of incense.

A recent trend includes its use as a replacement for onion or garlic and even chili peppers in vegan recipes.*

Asafetida is a pungent, aromatic spice commonly used in Middle Eastern, South Asian and Balkan cuisine. It is the dried latex sap of Ferula assa-foetida, a perennial herb. Historically it has also been used as an incense and as an antidote to poison.

Frequently described as “disagreeable”, it has been named the world’s most foul-smelling food. Some say it smells like rotten eggs; others disagree, saying that it resembles the odor of a boot that has not been cleaned for a long time.* It’s so stinky that there is an old belief that “asafoetida buried beneath the threshold will repel snakes from the house.”

Asafoetida is still available in most large supermarkets and Indian stores, or through online sources.

It’s one of those spices that your nose quickly gets used to when you use it often enough, meaning it’s great for cooking but probably not something you want to put on toast.*

Adulteration with other resins such as mastic may occur; care should be taken when buying.

Asafetida, or hing, is a spice derived from the sap of Ferula assafoetida, a perennial herb that grows 1 to 1.5 meters tall and has large yellow flowers. As an ingredient in food, asafetida has an unpleasant, pungent aroma. The odor has been variously described as “sulfurous,” “reminiscent of rotting cabbage,” and “like French cheese.”

Asafetida is widely used in Indian cuisine, especially in lentil dishes such as dal. According to Indian folklore, it is also effective at repelling insects. It is listed as an ingredient in chili powder blends in the United States because it reduces the amount of capsaicin required to produce a given level of heat.

Asafetida, or Devil’s Dung, is the dried latex from a giant fennel-like plant called Ferula assa-foetida. The plant grows wild in Iran and Afghanistan, where collectors scrape the dried latex into large sacks. In India it is gathered by burning incense near the plants to cause them to release the sticky substance.

What is asafetida used for? It is mostly used in Indian cooking to lend a pungent aroma to vegetarian dishes. The aroma is said to resemble that of rotting vegetable matter or garlic, but some describe it as smelling like old sneakers or dirty feet. But many people describe it as smelling like bad breath and others say it smells like stinky feet.

A small amount of asafetida mixed with water has been used for centuries as a traditional medicine to help relieve intestinal gas and flatulence, indigestion, nausea and pain during menstruation. Asafetida resin or gum has been shown to have antifungal properties and may be used for treating Candida albicans infections. The resin of Ferula assafoetida also exhibits strong insecticidal activity against mosquito larvae (Culex quinquefasciatus) and black fly larvae (

The Romans introduced asafetida to the west. According to Pliny the Elder, it was commonly used in Gaul and Germany for medicinal purposes. Some writers recommended it for treatment of colds and chest complaints. The physician Galen believed it could counteract poisons and recommended it to treat ulcers and flatulence. Pliny also wrote that asafetida was an ingredient in wines given to Roman soldiers to increase their courage.

For many centuries after the fall of Rome, asafetida was unknown in Western Europe. But it is mentioned by some herbalists of the late medieval period, including John Gerard (1545) and Nicholas Culpeper (1652). Culpeper called it “a hot and dry herb”, with a smell “not very agreeable” but “yet not strong”. He wrote that it would help digestion, among other things: “It provoketh urine, breaketh wind, helpeth the spleen, and consumeth tough phlegm.”

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