Asafoetida Powder (Hing)
Known as "the food of the gods" Asafoetida (assa-foetida) is the dried latex gum exuded from the living underground rhizome or tap root of several species of Ferula, which is a perennial herb. The species is native to the mountains of Afghanistan, and is mainly cultivated in nearby India. Asafoetida has a pungent, unpleasant smell when raw, but in cooked dishes, it delivers a smooth flavor, reminiscent of leeks.
This spice is used as a flavor enhancer and, used along with turmeric, is a standard component of Indian cuisine, particularly in lentil curries, such as dal, as well as in numerous vegetable dishes. It is especially widely used in South Indian cuisine, which is mainly vegetarian, and is often used to harmonize sweet, sour, salty and spicy components in food. It is used to hallmark the taste of Tamil Nadu sambar, a saucy dish made with cereals and lentils.
Recipe: Mango and Chick Pea Pickles
Named after its fetid aroma, Asafoetida is made from the white resinous sap, which turns dark brown on drying, of a variety of giant Fennel. It is a close relative to the now extinct 'laser root' that was mentioned in Roman cooking. Due to the difficulty in handling the resinous gum it is usually blended with some form of starch to make it manageable.
Asafoetida is used mostly in Indian vegetarian meals, while the fetid flavor dissipates on cooking where it adds a garlic-like flavor with onion overtones.
Always use in small amounts and keep very well sealed to prevent contamination of the flavor to other ingredients in the pantry. No added wheat, however may contain traces of gluten due to manufacturing practices.
Other Common Names: Giant Fennel, Jowani Badian, Devil's Dung, Food of the Gods, Hing, Laser.
Botanical Name: (Ferula asafoetida)
Nutritional Information: A staple in Indian cuisine, Asafoteida is considered an ancient Ayurvedic remedy for digestive discomfort including, upset stomach, intestinal gas, flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, nausea and colicky in babies. Studies have shown Hing to have antiviral properties, and it may also serve as a respiratory stimulant and expectorant to release phlegm and relieve chest congestion. Hing is used both internally and topically, and is thought to improve the skins complexion of blemishes when applied directly to the irritated area. May not be without traces of gluten.