Asafoetida is a commonly used spice in most Indian curries. Its strong pungent flavor adds a unique taste to all Indian-styled cooking. Here are some tips on how to cook food with asafoetida.
Asafoetida, or asadida, is made of dried up latex or gum derived from tap roots of a variety of ferula herb, which is commonly found in India and Middle East. The strong unpleasant pungent odor of this spice can be easily transferred to other foods and spices in your spice cabinet if you have incorrectly covered your asafoetida jar. In fact, they say, flavor of this spice is really pleasant and therefore contradicts its smell.
The height of its offensive smell can be seen in the names given to it by different cultures. Some people call it devil’s sweat, while in some other countries it is known as devil’s dung or devil’s spice. Persians appreciate the smell of asafoetida, therefore it is stated as food or spice for gods. In India, it is an indispensable component of the 7 most essential spices viz. turmeric, red chili powder, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds and asafoetida for making any Indian curry.
Cooking with Asafoetida
Since India and countries in the Indian subcontinent happen to be the largest consumers of this spice, I need to emphasize on cultural specific cooking practices with asafoetida from these regions. Asafoetida usually comes in colors ranging from off white to a very fluorescent yellow. The stronger the unpleasant flavor, the better the imparted taste.
- Due to the strong flavor, use just about 1/5th teaspoon of asafoetida powder for about 250 gm of vegetable or meat curry. It is suggested that one should heat the frying wok first. Add the required quantity of cooking oil. Add the asafoetida only after the oil is heated for 30 seconds.
- Fried asafoetida is known to acquire a combined flavor of sauteed garlic and onion. It is therefore, not always necessary to use onion and garlic if you use asafoetida powder. Make sure to avoid over-frying or burning asafoetida after it is put in the wok. As a thumb rule, asafoetida should not be fried for more than 5 seconds in your wok before you follow it up with the vegetables or meat to be cooked.
- Another style of cooking involves marinating vegetables with asafoetida, salt and a host of other spices. Vegetables tend to ooze out their natural water content after their marination. Once done, they are ready to be fried or roasted. This method can also be used for marinating meat, fresh fish and rice.
- A third style of cooking involves boiling vegetables or meat in a solution of water, asafoetida, salt and other spices.
When to Use Asafoetida?
- Apart from the above styles of cooking, use asafoetida in your cooking if food preparations are difficult to digest, specially red meat recipes.
- Use this spice in cooking foods like peas, corn, potatoes or cauliflower that can cause flatulence or gastric problems.
- Asafoetida has many health benefits and use it in your meal preparations if you happen to suffer from bronchitis, laryngitis, asthma, cold or flu.
- Asafoetida is known to be similar to silphium. Naturally, you can use it in all the recipes that require usage of silphium.
How to Store Asafoetida?
Asafoetida can usually be purchased in small blocks or in powdered and granular forms. The block form is known to be the purest, but I suggest you buy asafoetida in the powdered form, since it is more convenient to store. You will have to store this spice in an airtight jar to avoid contact with humidity. Each time you open this jar make sure to replace the cap tightly to avoid diffusion of odor. Do not refrigerate asafoetida as it can turn the spice into some really hard crystals. It is best to store asafoetida at room temperature.
Until recently, asafoetida was long forgotten in the Western world. Foodies and cooking experts are slowly waking up to realize the goodness of this spice. As a reader, the above information may have attracted you or repelled you from asafoetida. Either ways, do not come to any conclusions till you have tried this spice at least once. You never know, you might find it irresistible after you have used it!