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Also Known as
Asafetida, Hing, Perungayam.
Asafoetida is said to have originated in Rome, and despite not being a native of India, it has been used in Indian medicine and cookery for ages. It is a resin that is ochre in colour and it is most widely used in its powdered or granulated form, which are usually yellow in colour. The resin like gum is actually grayish white in colour when fresh, but dries to a dark amber colour. The resin is difficult to grate and is traditionally crushed using mortar pestle. In the raw form, the smell can be quite irritating, but once cooked, it changes in nature and imparts a very good aroma to the dishes.
The most commonly available form these days is compound asafoetida which contains 30% resin and remaining 70% is gum arabic and rice flour. Indian asafoetida from Kashmir is highly valued in the international market.
How to Select
Two main varieties are available, classified on the basis of their place of origin, flavour and colour: Hing Kabuli Sufaid (milky white asafoetida) and Hing Lal (red asafoetida). Check the manufacturing and expiry date, packaging etc before purchase. You can buy it in block form or in powdered form.
· It is used commonly in Indian cuisine for flavouring. It is added in minute quantities as a powder, or when dissolved in water. Remember never to use asafoetida with onions and garlic, to prevent the dish from becoming overly flavoured. In fact, Jains and other communities who shun the use of onion and garlic use asafoetida as a substitute.
· Temper dals, curries, upmas, rasam etc using hing for the added flavour and aroma. It smells best with ghee than with oil.
· Dissolve powdered asafoetida with buttermilk and temper with curry leaves. It acts as a digestive.
How to Store
It has an extremely pungent smell, which lingers on to the container a long time after it is emptied - therefore it is necessary to store asafoetida in air-tight containers.
· This spice is used as a digestive aid and also reduces flatulence.
· It is also said to be helpful in cases of bronchitis and asthma.