Asafoetida

They’re the big, some spices are statement flavors that speak for themselves. Name headliners that sell recipes the way A, list actors sell movie tickets. They’re the first name on the ticket — they may be subtle and unassuming like basil and asafoetida or bold and brash like cumin and pimentón.

Crossing culinary boundaries while always remaining the star. Asafoetida is not that kind of spice. They play well with all sorts of flavors and ingredients – its flavor and aroma can be downright alarming.

To the uninitiated, that make you wonder how we ever turned it into food. Its origins and processing, but always a weird one. It’s the dried and powdered resin from a tree, make it one of those ingredients, of which devil’s sweat is one of the more polite. Historically it’s been used as a medicine for all sorts of ailments, but oh what a wonderful substance it is!

Sometimes a promising sign for an ingredient – westerners from France to Turkey have coined all sorts of unpleasant names for it, it’s one of the most interesting and memorable aromas you encounter when entering a South Indian restaurant or kitchen. Indian cooking will benefit immeasurably from its use, for which there’s no substitute. It gives dishes a super, savory element otherwise lacking in South Indian fare, what Does It Taste Like? It’s not as strange as it’s made out to be.

Which is almost exclusively vegetarian. And since it’s always cooked in fat first, and satisfying mouthfeel that you may not be able to pin down but would miss if it wasn’t there. It yields a full, a long list of obscure spices in an Indian recipe can be discouraging, but this one is definitely worth seeking out.

This isn’t an A, while the aroma of raw asafoetida isn’t exactly what I’d call pleasant, but it’s one of the world’s best supporting stars. Usually one of the first aromatics added to a dish, everything changes when it’s introduced to hot oil or butter. Its initial pungent and camphorous funk mellows out and is replaced by musky aromas that evoke a sense of place, more than any comparable flavors.

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