Asafoetida – An Odd Smelling Spice with Unique Benefits
One of the most popular Indian spices in almost every Indian household, however little less known in the Western world!
I call it odd smelling, because unlike other spices which make you go ‘aaaahhhh’ this spice will make you go ‘yuucccckkkk’ .
Its a gum from the sap of the roots or stem of a giant fennel like plant species. They come in solid gum like rock form or powdered variety.
Setting its aroma factor aside this is a must-have spice in most vegetarian households and extensively used in many vegetarian dishes.
The overpowering aroma reduces considerably during the cooking process.
It is used as a replacement for garlic and onion in dishes.
English – Asafoedita, Asafetida
Indian – Hing, heeng
German – Asant, Stinkasant, Teufelsdreck, Asafötida
French – Asa-fœtida, Asa-fétida, Férule persique, Merde du diable, Ase fètide
Flavour Profile of Spice
Asafoedita is a very pungent, bitter and heavy spice when uncooked or in raw form. It smells almost like sulfur.
The taste considerably changes when added and cooked in a dish to replicate the taste and smell of garlic and onions.
This is the reason for its popularity in many vegetarian households in India especially those who do not consume root vegetables. (know as Jains)
The Uses of Asafoetida
The most important thing to keep in mind when cooking with Asafoedita is to use it sparingly.
A little imparts a strong taste so a pinch or half a tsp to a serving of 4-6 is advisable.
There are different ways to use this spice for cooking. You can either add it directly in hot oil (tempering method), in between the cooking process along with other ingredients or adding it to some other liquid such as water, tamarind pulp, tomato juice etc.
Few also advocate soaking it in a small amount of water before using it for cooking as it brings out the stronger taste.
I advise you to give this spice a try especially if you enjoy eating vegetarian food or on a gluten free diet or are intolerant to garlic and onions.
It may surprise you to know that this spice is used in many popular Indian spice blends which you may already be using such as Chat Masala, Sambar Powder, few curry powder recipes as well!
You can add it to lentil or vegetable soups, a dash added with other spices for making a spice rub. Other than cooking it can also be used as a pickling spice.
Benefits of Asafoetida
Combats Flatulence – Asafoetida soaked in water, made into a paste and rubbed onto tummies as been an age old Ayurvedic remedy to relieve flatulence in babies, toddlers, children and adults.
Helps to eliminate respiratory problems – Asafoetida paste can also be applied on chest to alleviate symptoms such as asthma, cough and cheat infection
Aids digestion – Adding a pinch of asafoetida to food that causes bloatiness in the stomach such as lentils, legumes, cauliflower, cabbage, raddish etc helps to make digestion faster and easier.
A good substitute for Onion or Garlic allergies or intolerance – Asafoetida is a very good alternative to replicate the flavour and taste of onion and garlic. So good for those who are intolerant to the two.
Reduces skin infection – You can also use asafoetida paste on to pimples, insect bite and other minor skin problems to reduce inflammation and itchiness and speed up healing.
Spice Buying Guide
There are two different forms of asafoetida available. One that comes in a solid form that is brown in colour while another in a powder form mostly yellow in colour.
The more popular of the two is the powdered yellow variety as its easier to use for cooking and has a much milder aroma.
You can buy it in larger quantity and store it for later use or small quantities in bottles or jars.
UK and rest of Europe
How to Store Asafoetida
As asafoetida has a very powerful smell, its best to store it in an airtight container in a slight distant from other spices.
Store it away from any direct light and heat.
Make sure that the lid is tightly sealed or you can put it in another plastic container or bag. The reason for this is that the oils in asafoetida are very volatile and can overpower your entire spice drawer if not secured well.
Well stored and packed asafoetida powder will keep its character and flavour for almost a year.
Best Food and Spice matching
Asafoetida powder is primarily used for vegetarian dishes and goes well with most vegetables, legumes, lentils, rice and other spices.
Best food pairing: beans, cauliflower, cabbage, chicken, curry, eggplant, ginger, lamb, lentils, peas, potatoes, rice, soups, stews, green leafy vegetables, orange and red vegetables
Best spice pairing: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seeds, dry chilies, turmeric
Spice Substitute for Asafoetida
If asafoetida is not your thing or the recipe calls to add it, then you can substitute it with onion powder or garlic powder.
Fresh garlic, onions, shallots or leeks are also other options.
Easy Recipes with Asafoetida to Try
KOBI BATETA NU SHAAK (Cabbage stir fried with simple spices)
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Your Views and Recipes
Please do leave your comment if you think I may have missed out on something.
I love to hear your kitchen adventures so please share any recipes made with Asafoedita that you love.
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