It has been brought to my attention that I mention many unique ingredients in my recipes which has raised a few questions from my readers. Some of my foodie friends asked very interesting questions, so I decided to share a little info about my ingredients with you. This time the focus is on 'Asafoetida'. Although I use it oftentimes in my kitchen, I had never given much thought to it until you brought it up and I appreciate that.
I did a little research about this ingredient and found that it had many different meanings, but the most common one is that Asafoetida is a type of resin obtained from the root of the plant called Ferula Asafoetida in English(don't get me wrong it is not a sticky goeey gum we throw into the food). The gum is processed or solidified and is more like a piece of rock when it is available in the store. It is a spice used for boosting the flavor of certain authentic South Indian soups and gravies and is also called Hing(Hindi) or Kayam(Malayalam). One of the many characteristics of this spice is that it promotes digestion. Many describe it's aroma as 'pungent and atrocious', it surprised me because I disagreed with that-I admit it may be a little strong in the raw form. A pinch or two when cooked into the tempering oil releases the flavors into most vegetarian gravies such as a Rasam or Sambhar and has a beautiful flavor. The secret is to use it sparingly-- just like the right amount of any ingredient in the right combination enhances the flavor of any single dish you are preparing. Anything in excessive quantities is sure to be 'atrocious'. The raw form of this ingredient is like a hard solid block and you can chip a little off each time, roast and powder to get a nice aroma. However, nowadays it is widely available in powdered form in a little canister resembling salt shakers used for sprinkling. I just couldn't imagine a Rasam or Sambhar without this ingredient because it would never have the same authentic taste.
|My instant Asafoetida Powder Shaker|
Here's a little wikipedia info on Rasam
Rasam is the 'chicken soup' of South India. It is a great homemade remedy and hypothetically leads to temporary relief from colds as my father(although he was a reputed scientist) always said! There must be some truth to this, 'cause Rasam has helped me recover from the discomfort of nasal congestion. A South Indian soup prepared with tamarind and pepper along with tomatoes and my ingredient 'asafoetida'. I replaced tamarind with lemon juice in this version and added fresh ripe tomatoes.
Ripe Tomatoes- 2
Curry leaves- 1 sprig
Mustard seeds, methi seeds, whole red chilli for seasoning
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tspn
Black Pepper- 1/2 tspn
Garlic Cloves- 3
Asafoetida- 2-3 pinches (as much as you can tolerate)
Turmeric Powder-1/4 tspn
MTR brand Rasam Powder- 1 tspn
Lemon- 2 juiced
Water- 3-4 cups
Cilantro leaves for garnishing
Salt and Oil
1. Crush together the cumin seeds, black pepper and garlic coarsely.
2. In a deep pan add the water and cut up tomatoes.
3. Add the Rasam Powder, salt, turmeric powder, crushed mixture from step 1.
4. Let the soup boil until the tomato is soft. Add the juice of the lemons and turn off the stove,
5. Now heat a saucepan add oil and the seasoning spices.
6.When the mustard seeds splutter, add curry leaves and asafoetida, then pour the tempering into the soup.
7. Stir in 1 tspn sugar if needed for extra taste.
9. If you prefer a thick soup, stir in 1/2 cup of cooked tuar dal or split peas into the soup.