Gourmet Food Source
Largely unknown in the West, asafoetida is most commonly used in the vegetarian food of India, particularly by the Brahmin caste as a substitute for onions and garlic which are forbidden by their religion.
It is actually the dried resin from several species of giant fennel found in India, Afghanistan and Iran where the stalks are cut close to the root to allow the resin to ‘bleed’. It is most commonly found in its powdered form but in its native countries can be bought in blocks or small pieces.
I would suggest that it is best known for its pungent aroma rather than any particular culinary use. For me, it is similar to shrimp paste so often used in Thai cookery where as a sole ingredient it is quite disgusting but when used in moderation with other ingredients it adds a unique depth of flavour.
Certainly a spice to be used in moderation, especially good in vegetarian curries and lentil dishes to give an onion/garlic taste it loses its pungency once cooked. Once bought it must be stored in an airtight container as its pungency will easily affect other foods in the store cupboard.
Content and picture © Miles Collins