Asafoetida, Hing, பெருங்காயம் – An everyday spice

As I have mentioned in several blogposts, Krishnan and I are huge fans of Masterchef Australia. Even though I read up on the winner even as the program starts getting telecast in India, its like reading a favourite novel. You know the ending, but you still want to read it. In this case, you want to see every episode ! :).

Enter Via Laundry – Australia

A few weeks back one of the episodes featured an exclusive suburban Indian restaurant “Enter Via Laundry” by Helly Raichura. They apparently have a waiting list of 1600 people and only 10 people are allowed to dine at one time. The contestants this time had to make “Pasta not Pasta” which is basically “Khandvi”. The restaurant’s version of Khandvi was mind blowing. For me, it was vindication of Indian traditional vegetarian food. What mothers and grandmothers in Gujarat consider child’s play is actually quite intricate.

L.G. Asafoetida or Hing, Yay !

More than the Khandvi, what caught my attention were boxes of L.G. Asafoetida in Helly Raichura’s kitchen. With Amma at home, I can run out of any spice but not Asafoetida and it has to be L.G. Asafoetida only. I tried shifting to pure Asafoetida, because I like the drama of powdering it just when I need it, but Amma flatly refuses to shift her loyalties. Mind you, she will find fault with any other brand of Asafoetida – it has to be only L.G. Asafoetida.

I came across an interesting Twitter thread about Asafoetida/Hing. Sharing it here – Marryam H Reshii’s thread on Hing

Marryam H Reshii


A thread for everyone who is fulminating about why India is not ‘growing’ asafoetida/hing

Hing is a wild plant. It has never been cultivated. It grows in uninhabited hilly regions of Afghanistan and Iran. Neither country uses it much. It is ALL consumed in India, except a tiny part that Germans use as Insecticide for fields! Beat that!

Hing is a resin. Without ‘stabilizing’, it is as potent as, say, an insecticide, and will make you dizzy. It HAS to be stabilized, naturally, with an edible substance. In North India this is wheat flour. In South India, rice flour is used.

Here comes the vital ‘secret’. The less flour used, the more superior or stronger, the hing. The more rice/wheat flour, the less the % of hing. It is my FAVOURITE spice but even I can’t remain in a hing godown in Old Delhi because of the smell/fumes.

To give you an idea of the quantum of total volume of hing in the market, there are 1500 zeera wholesalers in Delhi but 22 wholesale dealers of hing. Wholesale dealers stabilize it: hardly any processing is done in Af/Iran. Both countries have different flavour profiles, btw!

Until 40 years back, the trade was by individuals: an Afghan ‘kabuliwala’ would come on a jaunt to India with turquoise, hing, lace etc and sell it to various small-time dealers. Tibetan ladies in hill stations would famously sell hing, sewing needles and assorted knick-knacks.

Hathras in UP has become a centre of processing hing. It is usually poor quality because too much flour. In North India, hing cannot be used in Navratra fasts or by celiacs because of flour. You CANNOT purchase pure hing in the market. Maybe Govt regulations (too potent)

All stories about a lone tree in some random colony where hing used to be extracted are not true. Hing does NOT come from a tree. I would love to see it being grown in HP/Kashmir, but I am not betting on it. Man can but try, but Nature holds the trump card. THE END”

I can’t imagine Sambar or even subzi made without Asafoetida. I use it quite a lot. Infact its an everyday spice – it goes into buttermilk, it goes into subzi, it goes into Rasam/Sambar etc. Everyday, some dish will definitely have Hing in it. There are huge health benefits for Asafoetida, the biggest being it aids digestion.

If you want your Sambar to taste like my mother’s then use L.G. Asafoetida, no other brand. :):)

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