Also known as Chinese Hing, Devil’s Dung, Food of the Gods, jowani badian, hing, hengu, ingu, kayam, and ting (WIKI)
The Persian word aza means ‘Mastic Resin‘ and Latin word foetida means stinking.
What is asfoetida?
Asafoetida (asafetida) is a dried fetid gum resin with a bitter acrid taste, used as to flavour food especially in Indian cooking. It’s also used as a digestive aid, as a condiment and in pickling.
It’s collected from the rhizome or thick woody carrot shaped taproots of three giant fennels of the genus Ferula. The giant fennels belong to the carrot family, Umbelliferae (Apiaceae). The three species are Ferula asafoetida, Ferula foetida and Ferula narthex.
The spice is pungent and with a strong unpleasant odour that may be unappealing to many people. It’s used very sparingly. Most recipes call for a ‘pinch’.
In Indian cooking, it’s usually added to hot oil after adding cumin and mustard seeds. The pungent flavours mellows on cooking to give an onion-like aroma.
Asafoetida is collected as a milky resinous latex that coagulates and solidifies when it comes into contact with air. Freshly solidified asafoetida is pearly in colour but it eventually darkens to greyish, dull yellow, reddish brown or black. The black is often discarded.
Asafoetida is sold as a solid mass, paste or powder. The powder is often mixed with gum arabic, turmeric and flour.
Most commercial asafoetida come from Iran and Afghanistan, but the species are also cultivated in India where asafoetida is used extensively in cooking to flavour vegetarian and meat dishes especially dal, curries, pakora, Kofta, cauliflower.The spice is also claimed to have antiseptic properties.
In Afghanistan it’s used in combination with salt, to prepare dried meat. It’s said to act as a preservative and tenderizer.