ingredient information
Asafoetida is a plant from the Apiaceae family, which includes carrots, parsley, dill, celery, caraway, fennel, and lovage. Most similar in appearance to fennel, asafoetida smells like rotting feet, which causes many cooks to feel nervous about using the herb. In fact, some countries refer to asafoetida as Devil's Dung because of the foul smell. Native to the Middle East, asafoetida is a perennial plant that grows about six feet (1.83 m) high and bears bright yellow clusters of flowers. The hollow stem and roots of the asafoetida plant house a milky substance that is rich in organic sulfur. This substance is sometimes dried and blended with rice flour to create a flour that is used in cooking. Asafoetida flour has grown in popularity in the United States and has been used worldwide for years. In India, for example, asafoetida is used in all lentil dishes, primarily because the herb is known to prevent and alleviate smelly flatulence. Though it smells offensive, asafoetida tastes much like a combination of strong onions with a touch of earthy truffles. The rich, distinctive taste is popular with many chefs because it can be used in a variety of applications, including in soups and stews. Many cooks enjoy adding a pinch of asafoetida powder while stir-frying vegetables and meats.