What is asafoetida?
Asafoetida (also spelled asafetida) is the dried gum extract (or perungayam) from ferula plants, which is the same species as giant fennel. Its pronunciation is a-sa-FE-ti-duh, but you can also call this Indian spice by its Hindi name, hing. It’s also referred to as ‘food of the gods’ because, once cooked in oil, it produces a smooth savouriness similar to that of onion or leeks.
The asafoetida plant has a very strong, pungent aroma, earning it the name ‘stinking gum’. It most commonly comes in one of two forms: a powerful brown gummy resin or a slightly less potent yellow powder which is often ‘diluted’ with other ingredients such as flour and turmeric.
While it is mostly used as an ingredient in cooking, there are a few other uses as well. It’s commonly taken to aid in digestion and reduce flatulence. Asafoetida may also have some antibiotic properties and can be mixed with other ingredients for an anti-acne face mask. In ayurvedic medicine, it is said that asafoetida is the best spice to rebalance your vata dosha, or your bodily energy.
Asafoetida is indigenous to the Afghan mountains, but today, it is mostly grown and used in India. It is widely believed that an expedition by Alexander the Great himself is what brought the spice across to Europe. It’s also possible that asafoetida was used as a cheaper, less flavourful substitute to the now-extinct North African spice silphium.
While it isn’t as ‘mainstream’ as pepper or curry, asafoetida is still used throughout Australia to flavour Indian cuisine. It’s a major ingredient in plenty of vegetable dishes, but it can also be used to flavour lamb, mutton, or types of meat.
Benefits of asafoetida homeopathy
Calm an upset stomach
As a digestive, asafoetida may be able to help with flatulence, bloating, and constipation. It may also be used for colic babies, since infantile colic has been linked to gastrointestinal discomfort and cramping.
Relieves migraines and headaches
Asafoetida is an anti-inflammatory that is thought to lower your blood pressure. This could reduce the impact of inflamed blood vessels that cause headaches.
May improve fertility & reproductive health
This spice is thought to promote the production of progesterone, an important hormone produced by the female body. It is said that taking asafoetida can increase your chances of getting pregnant.
It could heal bites, stings, and irritated skin
Combine garlic and asafoetida together for an anti-itch skin balm. This may also speed up the healing process.
It may make your skin and hair glow
Asafoetida allegedly helps reduce acne while also giving your skin a youthful glow. If you add it to a homemade hair mask, it may be able to increase moisture and reduce frizziness.
Risks & side effects of consuming asafoetida
Although it is safe to ingest food that contains asafoetida, it’s a little bit trickier when the spice is used to treat certain conditions or illnesses. There are no studies that prove the effectiveness and safety of asafoetida when taken as medicine, so tread carefully!
Asafoetida may cause miscarriage, meaning you should avoid it during pregnancy. You should also refrain from taking asafoetida if you’re breastfeeding or have a bleeding disorder or problem with your central nervous system. Ironically enough, asafoetida may also cause a spike in blood pressure, skin irritation, headaches, and diarrhea.
Recipes that commonly use asafoetida
Not a lot of recipes list asafoetida as an ingredient, and it’s definitely not something you should add to every dish. But these recipes are the perfect base to let the spice shine. Test these out, and soon, hing will become a pantry staple in your home!
Pro tip: When cooking with asafoetida, you need to heat it up in oil first to release the flavour, just like you would if you were going to saute onions and garlic. Before adding meat or veg to the pan, heat up some oil and add a pinch of the spice. Then add the rest of the ingredients.
Where to buy it in Australia
Even though asafoetida isn’t nearly as popular as other Asian spices, you can find it at online shops or your local Coles. A 40g pack usually costs $AUD 3-7, depending on the brand. Here are some of the places you can buy asafoetida:
This aromatic addition tastes like a combination of onion and garlic – a staple in most Asian and some Western dishes. Use asafoetida for a brand-new culinary experience!