Asafoetida is known as hing in Hindi and perungayam in Tamil. It is sold in powdered or solid chunk/lumps in grocery stores. Asafoetida is popular in Indian, Iranian and Afghan cuisine. Infact, “asa” in Persianm means gum and “foetidious” in Latin means stinking. Asafoetida means stinking gum. Yes, it definitely has a pungent smell. It contains sulphur and that explains the reason for the strong smell. Just a pinch of it, will add so much flavor to the dish. Don’t over do with asafeotida. The dish might turn out horrible if used in excess.
Asafoetida is added to hot oil. That’s because the heat will fade out its smell. They are sold in two forms: finely ground white powder (Check Amazon) or sandy brown crystals (Check Amazon). Asafoetida is dried resinous gum of a giant fennel plant. During spring, the stem is cut off and the milky sap that flows out is collected like milk from rubber plant. They are then sun dried to form solid lumps.
Asafeotida helps with flatulence Hence they go along in dishes that has legumes, lentils and potatoes. It is a popular ingredient in Jain/Hindu Brahmin homes as asafoetida is used in place of garlic or onions. On days you suffer from body ache due to gas, hot water boiled with asafeotida is taken to relieve the gas from the body.
I use asafoetida to make sambhar, rasam, dhal and Indian pickles. Asafoetida also helps to cure respiratory problems. In South India, we serve sambhar with “thalicha paruppu” (lentils tempered with ghee and spices). It is a popular baby food as well. Asafoetida dissipates has from legumes and they make the dish light and more digestible for the little ones.