Asafoetida is an important spice in Indian cuisine for it’s savory, onion-like flavor. Asafoetida is a resin derived from the dried sap of flowering plant roots in the ferula family, which includes fennel and is part of the celery family. The dried resin is ground into a pale yellow powder, which can then be used in a variety of dishes. Asafoetida smells and tastes like leeks or scallions, and is quite pungent; only a small amount is needed to impart its delicious flavor into dishes. The unprocessed resin can be extremely pungent and quite sulphurous, this strong odor may be the reason why asafoetida is sometimes called “devil’s dung”. Luckily, asafoetida is much more delicious than this nickname implies. Asafoetida has existed as a food item since ancient times; Alexander the Great brought the spice to Europe after visiting ancient Persia where it was widely used. In addition to its gustatory quality, asafoetida was also valued for its medicinal properties, which were said to improve respiratory health. Today, home cooks utilize asafoetida to add depth of flavor to their dishes. Many vegetarian meals are improved by adding asafoetida because of its rich savoriness. If you would like to try asafoetida for yourself, it can be purchased online, in Indian markets, and in some specialty health food stores.
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