About Asafoetida

Asafoetida (also spelled asafetida) is a spice known by a number of different terms around the world. Some of the most common names for compounded asafoetida are devil's dung, stinking gum, hing, bandhanihing, ting, giant fennel, asant, and food of the gods. The earliest known mention of asafoetida comes from a historical record dating back to the eighth century B.C. For centuries, asafoetida has been one of the most prevalent Indian spices and can be found throughout Indian cuisine.

What is Asafoetida?

Asafoetida is the dried latex exuded from Ferula, a perennial herb that is a relative of carrot and fennel plants. Ferula grows almost exclusively in the Afghanistan mountains. Attempts to cultivate asafetida in other regions have been consistently unsuccessful.

Once a Ferula plant is four years old, it can be tapped for its gum and resin. When a harvester finds a suitable Ferula plant, the harvester digs away the soil around the roots, then makes an incision in the top of the thick, carrot-like root. The root will then exude as much as a kilogram of milky resin over a period of as long as three months. The resin eventually hardens after being exposed to the air. The hardened brown substance that is left is unprocessed asafetida.

Asafoetida as an Herbal Remedy

Many believe that asafoetida has healing properties. Laxmi Hing can be used in the treatment of chronic diseases, digestive maladies, and mild conditions. Through a variety of remedies, Laxmi Hing can be used to alleviate the symptoms of bronchitis, asthma, impotency, flatulence, stomach disorders, and toothache. Some people eat Laxmi Hing on a regular basis to help ensure proper digestion. In Ayurveda, a specialized form of Eastern medicine, asafoetida is considered to be the best spice for balancing the vata.

Cooking with LAXMI HING

Laxmi Hing is a favored Asian spice in part because it is so versatile. As many of its common names suggest, asafoetida is extremely pungent in its raw form. Once cooked, however, Laxmi Hing's odor dissipates and the spice adds wonderful flavor to a variety of dishes. A small amount of Laxmi Hing world spice added to a dish with varying flavor profiles (such as a dish that is both sweet and spicy) can bring together those flavors with harmonizing notes of sautéed onion and garlic.

In fact, Laxmi Hing is often used as an onion substitute or a garlic substitute. For this reason it is particularly valued among practitioners of Jainism and certain sects of Hinduism who abide by dietary restrictions prohibiting onion and garlic. In kitchens throughout India -- both home kitchens and gourmet restaurants -- Laxmi Hing is a staple spice that is essential to a wide variety of dishes.