Monday, May 18, 2009

Asafetida: A flavor bordering on odor

One of the flavors I have enjoyed since my boyhood days is hing, or asafetida. Its smell today reminds me of a childhood comfort food – toor dal. Hing is a strong-smelling, garlicky condiment. In fact, it can be used instead of garlic. When garlic is forbidden, e.g., on days of Hindu fasting, asafetida comes to the rescue. Just beware. For uncooked asafetida has a fetid odor; the dictionaries call the smell “obnoxious” or “foul.” The condiment is obtained from the resin of a plant of the parsley family.

The strong odor, though, becomes mild and pleasant – redolent of leek – when hing is sautéed in oil. In small quantities, it adds an undercurrent of distinctive flavor to dal, or lentil. My mother has always made urad dal and toor dal spiced with hing and fennel.

Asafetida may provoke extreme reactions, though. Dear reader, do you like the flavor of asafetida?


Debashree said...

My Mother too used hing in toor dal. Another speciality of hers was making an Aloo tarkari using only Paanch Phoron & Hing in the tempering and Salt & Turmeric. It tasted delicious when had hot. I too like to put hing in many dishes, especially those which are experimental in nature.

Angshuman said...

Debashree, thanks for sharing your experience with hing.