We’ve just made an order for one of the most obscure but essential Indian spices out there. We are talking about Asafoetida Powder. Pronounced “Asa’fo’teeda”, this spice is harvested from the roots and stems of the genus ferula plant, pictured to your right. The plants roots are slashed causing it to produce a pungent resin. Once dried, the hardened resin is scraped off and crushed into powder. Note that commercial Asafoetida is not 100% pure. It is sometimes compounded with rice flower, but most commonly wheat flower, meaning its not gluten free (sorry). Now we’ve searched far and wide for the rice flower version, but for we could only get our hands on reliable supply of the latter (again sorry).
Asafoetida is not very impressive looking. Unlike the myriad of vibrantly coloured spices native to Indian cuisine, Asafeotida is bland and rather boring looking.
However what this spice lacks in looks, it makes up in flavour and stench. Did I say stench? You bet. This stuff, in its raw form stinks. Rich in sulphurous compounds Asafoetida is commonly referred to as stinking gum or devil’s dung. That’s right, we will be carrying a product that smells of the devil’s bowel. Luckily Asafoetida’s pungency mellows with heat. Ultimately it produces a pleasant oniony-garlic flavour.
Here is a nice little video to fill you in on this stinky little spice.
Asafoetida is considered a must have spice compound in many vegetarian dishes especially daals, lentil based dishes. A small pinch of this stuff goes a long way. Here is a great daal recipe to get you started.
As far as the medicinal properties of Asafoetida are concerned, according to WebMd.com it is used to treat many ailments such as:
- Breathing problems including ongoing (chronic) bronchitis,H1N1 “swine” flu, and asthma.
- Digestion problems including intestinal gas, upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and irritable colon.
- Treatment of “whooping cough” (pertussis), croup, and hoarse throat.
- Hysteria, insanity, convulsions, and as a nerve stimulant for ongoing mental and physical fatigue with depression (neurasthenia).
- Women sometimes use asafoetida to restart their menstrual periods after menstruation has stopped for some reason.
- Asafoetida is sometimes applied directly to the skin for corns and calluses.
So there you have it. If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of Indian cuisine or need to restart your menstrual cycle, Asafeotida is an absolute must.