Discovering the secret spice: Asafoetida

Asafoetida is a beautiful yet often overlooked spices in Indian Cooking. It brings a rich depth and savouriness to any recipe. 

What is Asafoetida?

Asafoetida is generally found in powder format, but is a gum from a giant fennel, therefore has a strong and pungent smell. Hing, as asafoetida is referred to colloquially, in its raw format is a sticky resin from the roots that is dried and mixed with flour. This then turns it to an edible spice. 

Once referred to as ‘the food of the gods’, asafoetida is rarely used in other cuisines beyond India. In fact, India accounts for 405 of the world’s hing consumption. 

Occasionally, asafoetida can be in a brown powder which is the full-strength dried gum that’s been ground; however, it must be used in very small amounts as it is extremely pungent. 

How do I store it?

Storing any spice is important, and you can find some top tips here. But when it comes to storing hing, it’s simply critical you get it right! The aroma of asafoetida can infiltrate your cupboards and put you off! Always put it in an airtight container and always be careful to wipe the container clean. 

How do I Cook with Asafoetida

Cooking with asafoetida requires finesse and a delicate touch. To temper the bitterness of this spice, asafoetida must be cooked directly into the pan with oil or ghee. To truly enjoy the powerful flavour, add it to your other spices after they’ve tempered in hot oil and let it dissolve. It particularly works well with cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom, and fennel seeds. When doing this, it adds a powerful ‘umami’ flavour to any dish. 

In Punjabi and South Indian cuisine, asafoetida is found in vegetarian dishes by quickly heating in hot oil before sprinkling on the food. In Kashmiri cuisine, you can use the spice in lamb or mutton dishes with a rich flavour such as a rogan josh.