Asafetida (ah-sah-FEH-teh-dah), Glossary and Terms, Meat, Fish, Fruit, Grocery Food Stores

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"Asafetida (ah-sah-FEH-teh-dah)"

This pungent resinous gum is used widely in Indian vegetarian cooking. Also called stinking gum and devil's dung because of its unpleasant smell, this seasoning is obtained from the gum of a plant native to Afghanistan, Iran, and northern India. A perennial of the carrot family that grows wild to 12 feet high in natural forests. The whole plant exudes a characteristic smell, described by some as stink. The milky resin comes from both the thick stems and the root and it dries into asafoetida.

A popular ingredient in Indian vegetarian dishes, it imparts a subtle flavor if used sparingly (the odor does not transmit to cooked food). In the raw state, the resin or the powder has an unpleasant smell. This completely disappears when the spice is added to a variety of fish, vegetable pulse, and pickle ingredients. Also used in the curries and pickles of West and South India. The powdered version is easier to handle. Buy asafoetida in small quantities. The powder resin is usually mixed with flour to provide bulk and is sold in bright yellow plastic tubs.
History: Early record show that Alexander the Great carried this "Stink Finger" west in 4 BC. It was used as a flavoring in the kitchens of ancient Rome.

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