Suffering from ibs, or inflammatory conditions like asthma? Add asafoetida to your regimen & reap its many benefits. Learn how to use this miracle 'pinch of a cure.'
Asafoetida, called as hing in India, is used a lot in Indian cuisine. Indians consume this pungent yet powerful spice almost daily in recipes like lentils (dals), curries, sambar, pilafs, and many more vegetarian dishes. It is used almost every time in our tempering recipe - adding spices to oil and flavoring the lentils just before serving. It is a spice with the strongest aroma so only a little bit is needed each time.
We all know the importance of healthy digestive tract in preventing diseases and this spice is a powerful ally that can help you achieve that. In fact, it is heaven sent for those who have ibs/ibd symptoms since it is a great substitute for onions and garlic (more on that below).
Let's start this article so you can get all the facts you need to start reaping the benefits of asafoetida.
Asafoetida's history and uses:-
Name -Asafetida, also spelled as asafoetida, is named by combining two words - the Persian aza meaning mastic or resin, and then the Latin foetidus, which means stinking. Because of its health benefits, it is also called as 'food of the gods'.
Plant - Asafoetida is a resinous gum (gum oleoresin) that is extracted from the rhizome or tap root of Ferula foetida species, a giant odorous fennel. Asafoetida is part of the celery family - no wonder it is so beneficial to digestive tract! The species is a native to Iran and Afghanistan, with it being cultivated in India.
History - Alexander the Great carried this “stink finger” west in 4 BC. Ancient Rome used it as a spice and in fact, asafoetida is a Roman spice - NOT an Indian spice though many ignorant Indians might tell you that. Though not native to India, it has been used in Indian medicine and cooking since centuries. Asafoetida is a highly revered spice; it has been mentioned in the Jewish literature (Mishnah) as well as by the ancient Arab and Islamic scientists. Avicenna wrote about the effects of asafoetida on digestion whereas other Islamic scientists wrote about its health benefits on the respiratory tract.
Cultural/Folk Uses - Asafoetida was used during Italian Renaissance as part of exorcism ritual. In Jamaican culture, it is applied on the baby's head to prevent spirits from entering the baby's body. In African American Hoodoo rituals, it is used to protect from evil spirits. In many European countries, asafoetida was tied and worn in a necklace to protect children from diseases. Asafoetida's pungent sulfurous smell was used to calm hysteria and in the American Wild West, it was mixed with other spices to cure alcoholism.
Benefits of asafoetida for you -
Digestion & FODMAP Support - Asafoetida is the spice if you have digestive issues like SIBO, irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), IBD, leaky gut, ulcers, irritable colon, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, gas, bloating and such. It is no surprise that asafoetida is great for those following FODMAP diet (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols). In FODMAP diet, one is to restrain from eating onions and garlic - at least for sometime until the gut heals and foods can be reintroduced. So, what do you do to flavor food? Here comes your new best friend - asafoetida! It is an excellent addition to any recipe which calls for onions and garlic and on top of that, you reap the benefits of healing your gut due to its medicinal properties. Two-in-one!
Respiratory/Lung Health - Asafoetida is used to help ease discomfort during asthma, bronchitis, wheezing, swine flu and whooping cough. It is also used to soothe sore throat and pain. This is because asafoetida is an expectorant and helps loosen phlegm. For such conditions, drinking a pinch's worth of asafoetida in warm water will help immensely.
Women's health - In Afghanistan, asafoetida is used to relieve menstrual pains. This is because it is a blood thinner and boosts circulation naturally. Another point is that you might remember in recent article (THIS ONE) we talked about the benefits of progesterone cream for women and how progesterone can help eliminate menstrual cramps and pains completely - well, asafoetida is another way to boost your progesterone levels. Consuming pinch of asafoetida in warm water as well as adding it to recipes can help during this time of the month.
Blood Pressure - Asafoetida helps in lowering blood pressure due to its compound called coumarin, which helps thin the blood for better circulation.
Great for using with lentils, beans, cruciferous vegetables - For those who experience gas after eating certain foods like lentils, beans, etc, adding asafoetida to your recipes will help prevent this.
Taste & smell?
Asafoetida (hing) has a very pungent smell, thus its name stinking gum. As far as taste goes, it mellows down once cooked and adds a depth of flavor like no other spice or herb. Aroma and taste are subjective - but general consensus on asafoetida's taste and smell will tell you that it is a combination of onion and garlic with a back note of thyme and oregano. In fact, this is the reason why asafoetida is used in so many recipes where one doesn't want to eat onions and garlic (due to religious reasons or sensitivity). Asafoetida's taste is considered in umami (savory) category.
How to use in recipes?
Tempering - Simply add a pinch's worth or 1/6 - 1/8th teaspoon to your recipe in the beginning. So, once you add oil, then add asafoetida. If you are using cumin seeds in your recipe, then you would add oil first, then cumin seeds, asafoetida and so on. Let it fry a bit in the oil for about a minute or so and you will notice its smell and flavor become more subtle.
Keep on low when adding asafoetida in the beginning until other ingredients have been added to avoid burning it. This is it! Follow this method and add asafoetida to your rice recipes, beans, soups, vegetables - esp. cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, lentils, curries...the list is endless!
NOTE: USE LESS THE FIRST TIME TILL YOU BECOME ACQUAINTED WITH IT.
Best way to store?
Store it in either steel or glass jar to preserve its flavor and essence. Make sure to keep it away in airtight container as its sulfurous odor will spread to other spices and nearby food products. When stored in cool, dry, airtight container, this powerful spice can last a whole year or more.
If you have SIBO/leaky gut/ibs/ibd/intestinal inflammation/etc - digestive issues:-
Again, asafoetida is a 'must-have' spice for those on FODMAP diet and are trying to eliminate garlic and onions. It is also great since adding it not only adds flavor and aroma, but it also helps the digestive process; this is why asafoetida is valued by those suffering from SIBO, ibs/ibd, and such inflammatory issues.
How to buy?
When buying asafoetida, make sure to read the fine print as it is often mixed with wheat, corn, gum arabic, rice flour, turmeric and other fillers. This is called compounded asafoetida, where only about 30% asafoetida is taken and mixed with other substances as mentioned above. The best asafoetida to buy is the one which is mixed with fenugreek or turmeric or you can opt for 100% pure asafoetida powder. Your best bet would be to buy online from sites like amazon or if local, then you can buy from Indian or Middle Eastern grocery stores (though that would probably be compounded one mixed with wheat, etc).
So, this week, moving on with more health-enhancing small changes, your job is to find high quality asafoetida and start cooking with it right away!
Here's to the most pungent spice ever - asafoetida (hing)!
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