The aromatic resin from the root of the giant fennel, Ferula asafoetida. Asafoetida (also known as hing) is extracted from the stems of these giant perennial plants that grow wild in Central Asia.
In the spring, when the plant is about to bloom, the stems and roots are cut. Milky resin exudes from the cut surface and is scraped off.
More exudes as successive slices of root are removed over a period of 3 months. The gummy resin is sun-dried into a solid mass that is then sold in solid, wax-like pieces, or more conveniently, in powdered form. Due to the presence of sulphur compounds, asafoetida has a distinctive pungent flavour reminiscent of shallots or garlic. Used in minute quantities, it adds a delicious flavour to various savoury dishes. I always use the mild Vandevi brand of yellow asafoetida powder and not the grey variety. If using other varieties, reduce the quantities to one half of the suggested amount. Asafoetida is available at Indian grocers.
It is the Vandevi brand that I have...bowls you over when you first open it...
I note also some dishes call for a fairly large (2 tsp) amount. Also, it is used by Brahmins, as a substitute for garlic for religous reasons.
I think your E indian friends were slightly mistaken about the Western name for Hing. it is Asafoetida. Pronounced Assafeetida. It is a resin (as you say, exported from Afghanistan) It can be found is lumps looking a little like incense or amber, but most often it comes powdered in little flat boxes about ¾ inch high and about 2" or so in diameter.
As you say, a pinch is normally all you need. When you open the box for the first time, you'll be appalled at the stink! Don't be put off, because when fried (like fenugreek it HAS to be fried a second or two in oil/ghee before further (moist) ingredients are added) it changes character and becomes pleasant. I had not heard that it was a carminative (stops you farting) although I know of a number of other spices with that effect. I wouldn't be surprised if it were though.
From: Ian Hoare
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From: Tom Hamp Date: 18 May 97 National Cooking Echo Ä
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