From the Spice Cupboard: Asafoetida (or Asafetida)

Indian cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey mentioned a spice we'd never heard of (shocking!) during an interview on The Splendid Table a few weeks back. It's called asafoetida and according to Jaffrey, it has some very interesting properties.

Have you ever cooked with it?Jaffrey says that asafoetida, or asafetida, is a medicinal spice used primarily as a digestive aid in Indian cooking. We also read that a pinch in a pot of beans can help lessen the flatulent side-effects of eating them, something we aim to try soon.

Asafoetida also comes from a very unusual source. According to Harold McGee, it's made by scraping the sap from the exposed root of a plant in the carrot family. The sap is dried and crushed, giving us a tan-colored powder to sprinkle into our dishes.

McGee also says that the sap contains many of the same sulfur compounds found in onions. It has a very strong odor when dry, which many sources say is reminiscent of washed rind cheeses or body odor. Not to worry - when the spice is added during cooking, it mellows out into a gentle oniony-garlic flavor. Or so we're told!

How do you use asafoetida in your cooking?

Find It! - Asafoetida, $6 from Frontier Co-op

Hear the Interview: Madhur Jaffrey on The Splendid Table

Related: Good Question: How Can I Make Beans More Digestible?

(Images: Frontier Co-op)

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