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What Is Asafoetida Powder?

What Is Asafoetida Powder?

What Is Asafoetida Powder?

Our Asafoetida (ah-suh-FEH-ti-duh) Powder is finely ground, warm ivory-colored, and pungent, to put it mildly, out of the jar. A traditional daily staple of Indian cuisine, it comes from the ferula plant, a type of giant fennel pompommed with clusters of tiny yellow flowers. Native to Afghanistan, ferula plants exude a resin from near their roots that hardens like a rock over time. Broken off in blocks and ground down into fine, sulphurically aromatic powder, asafoetida has been known for centuries in many different languages as a variation of “devil’s dung”, “devil’s dirt” and worse. The pure essence of this spice is tamed by mixing pure asafoetida with rice flour and turmeric. So how is it that this odiferous add-in is so prevalent and prized in the curries, dals, and soups of India? One word: heat. Add to hot oil or a simmering curry, and all the odors you wanted to hold at arm’s length, transform into aromas and flavors you’re drawn to warmly embrace. 

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What Does Asafoetida Powder Taste Like?

Put your tiniest fingertip into a jar of raw asafoetida and you won’t be surprised that the flavors you taste closely align with the aromas wafting ripely up to you. Eggy, sharp, a mild, not unpleasant bitterness towards the end. Also there, if you wait for it, is the distinct note of dried onion, a foreshadowing of tastes to come. The gateway to Asafoetida’s flavor secrets is heat in the form of a neutral oil, shimmering hot. A pinch thrown in will sizzle for 5 – 10 seconds, then bloom into savory aromas of leek, garlic, and caramelized onion. Over time, asafoetida’s flavors mellow, dissolving into a richness that infuses every bite or sip but doesn’t overpower. Kitchens of Northern India add it to their popular, tangy curries and stews, while cooks in Southern India use it to deepen the flavors in their lentil dals and rice dishes. This ability to add savory, oniony warmth has made asafoetida a favorite substitute for those avoiding using onions and garlic.


How Do I Use Asafoetida Powder?

Using asafoetida in your Indian cooking for the first time requires a certain amount of bravery. Much like that moment when you first shook drops of fish sauce into your favorite Thai recipe, you had to have faith that those alarming aromas would morph into the magical flavors of an authentic dish done right. Asafoetida is the same. For dal, toss a pinch without fear into oil sizzling with fragrant spices and dried chiles. Wait a few seconds for the aromas to mingle, then pour in your rinsed lentils. In the curries of Northern India, a dash of asafoetida ties together the cumin, cardamom, and coriander in garam masala. Stir the spices in the hot pan for almost a minute before adding a little oil and the protein to brown and coat. For a savory, rich lemon rice fry a small amount with dried chiles, nuts, turmeric, and more. Then fold in your cooked Basmati and lemon. And if you want to avoid onions and garlic, but still want those flavors, this is your go-to. Be sure to keep this strong-smelling spice in an airtight container.

As easy as it is to use, asafoetida has its challenges – the out-of-jar aromas, the harvesting, and even the spelling and pronunciation. But once through those, you’re in the club. The club that knows another secret to creating sublime, authentic, conversation-sparking Indian food.

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