Asafoetida

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Asafoetida powders

Plant name: Ferula asafoetida

Indian name: Hing

This spice is used as a digestive aid, in food as a condiment and in pickles. Its �odour� is so strong that it must be stored in airtight containers; otherwise the aroma, which is nauseating in quantities, will contaminate other spices stored nearby. However, its odour and flavour become much milder and more pleasant upon heating in oil or ghee, acquiring a taste and aroma reminiscent of sautéed onion and garlic. In India, it is used especially by the merchant caste of the Hindus and by adherents of Jainism, who do not eat onions or garlic. It is used in most vegetarian and lentil dishes to both add flavour and aroma and reduce flatulence. It is mainly grown in Iran, Afghanistan.

Cultivation and manufacture

The resin-like gum which comes from the dried sap extracted from the stem and roots is used as a spice. The resin is grayish-white when fresh, but dries to a dark amber colour. The asafoetida resin is difficult to grate, and is traditionally crushed between stones or with a hammer. Today, the most commonly available form is compounded asafetida, a fine powder containing 30% asafetida resin, along with rice flour and gum arabic.

Ferula assafoetida is an herbaceous, monoecious, perennial plant of the family Umbelliferae. It grows to 2 m high with a circular mass of leaves. Flowering stems are 2.5–3 m high and 10 cm thick, with a number of schizogenous ducts in the cortex containing the resinous gum. Stem leaves have wide sheathing petioles. Compound large umbels arise from large sheaths. Flowers are pale greenish yellow. Fruits are oval, flat, thin, reddish brown and have a milky juice. Roots are thick, massive, and pulpy. It yields a resin similar to that of the stems. All parts of the plant have the distinctive fetid smell.

Great with:

  • Fish, salted or fresh
  • Grains & pulses
  • Grilled or roast meats
  • Most vegetables

On-line suppliers

Asafoetida should be available as resin or compounded from your local Asian shop. However, it can also be bought on line from the following outlets:

Spices of India; Rafi's Spice Box; Seasoned Pioneers; TheAsianCookShop.co.uk; The Spice Shop


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