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Let me introduce you to the most potent spice used in the Indian kitchen called Asafoetida. It is sometimes called “devil’s dung.” As often participants from my cooking workshops say that it smells like fart and I wouldn’t deny that at all. It definitely has a strong aroma and if by any chance left open in your kitchen cabinet, it might be a huge challenge to get rid of the smell easily.

Asafoetida is dried latex or gum from Ferula a part of the celery family.  The crop is native to Iran but is commonly grown in Pakistan and India as well. 

I can’t think of cooking Indian food without hing. It is something that brings a different flavor profile that cannot be expressed well. Asafoetida is used in savory dishes, often to add a more full flavor by mimicking the taste of onions, garlic, egg, and even meat. It’s a staple ingredient in Indian cooking, commonly used along with turmeric in lentil dishes like dal, and a variety of vegetable dishes. In North of India, it is used in chickpea curries. In Kashmir it is used for meat dishes like Rogan Josh. It is also used commonly in pickles. The popular term of adding a tempering or tadka used in the Indian kitchen involves the use of asafoetida. A tiny pinch of this powder has to be add to warm oil and cooked for a few seconds before adding any other spice or vegetables to the oil.

I remember walking by the road in India during afternoons and could smell the aroma of tadka made with hing and it always brought a smile to my face. And I try to bring that memory of India everytime I use it. Asafoetida is not an easily available spice in the regular supermarkets like the turmeric powder or cumin seeds but is only available in Asian stores. I assume Amazon sells it in a few countries as well. In the Netherlands I buy a small pack of this spice and it lasts upto 6 months or more. Once purchased it can be used for years if stored in an air tight container.

Asafoetida is known to reduce bloating often caused by gas producing food products like chickpeas, cauliflower or lentils.

Recipe using Asafoetida: Garlic flavored lentils (Lasuni Daal)


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