Asafoetida (Hing, Asafetida)

Asafoetida block

Asafoetida is an integral part of Indian cooking and is a must for lentil dishes and curries with green leafy vegetables. The name asafoetida is derived from the Persian for resin “aza” and the Latin for stinking “fetida”.

Asafoetida is a resinous gum that is extracted from the root and stem of a giant perennial fennel that is at least 4 yrs old. The stem/root of the plant is slashed and kept in shade while the sap seeps out and hardens. This dried, grayish-white gum is then scraped off which turns reddish and finally reddish-brown as it ages. The asafoetida that we buy in stores has only about 30 -40% of pure asafoetida and the rest is edible starch (rice or wheat flour) to make the powder more manageable.

This spice is carminative and some researchers believe that asafoetida, like garlic oil, may help lower blood pressure. Asafoetida is a pungent spice and helps stimulate appetite and improve digestion. Asafoetida alleviates the sensation of heaviness after a heavy meal. In India, it’s a common practice to have buttermilk with asafoetida to treat indigestion.

Asafoetida is a great substitute for garlic. It has strong aroma that is toned down during cooking which results in a complementary flavor to the dish.