Saturday, August 28, 2010

Asafoetida 兴渠

Asafoetida ( Ferula assafoetida ) is a perennial herb from the family Apiaceae, native to Persia.

Asafoetida’s English and scientific name derived from Persian word for resin, asa and Latin foetida, which refers to its strong sulfurous odor.   Its pungent odor has resulted in its being called by many unpleasant names : thus in French it is known as merde du diable ( devil’s shit ), and equivalent names is other languages :  teufelsdreck ( German ), dyvelsträck ( Swedish), duivelsdrek ( Dutch ), duiwelsdrek ( Afrikaans ), pirunpaska or pirunpihka ( Finnish ).  In Turkish, it is known as şeytantersi ( devil's sweat ), şeytan boku ( devil's shit ) or şeytanotu ( the devil's herb ).  In Dravidian languages, it is known as inguva ( Telugu ), ingu ( Kannada ), perungayam ( Tamil ), kaayam ( Malayalam ), Hing ( Bengali ), Perungkayang ( Sinhalese ) .…..

The commonly available form of asafetida is compounded powdered resin containing 30% asafetida resin, along with rice flour and gum arabic ( natural gum made from hardened sap extracted from Acacia senegal and/or Acacia seyal ).  Asafetida resin is extracted from the steam and roots.  The resin is greyish-white when fresh, but dries  to a dark amber colour.

Typical asafetida contain about 40-46% resin, 25% endogenous gum, 10-17% volatile oil, and 1.5-10% ash.  The resin is known to contain asaresinotannols ‘A’ and ‘B’, ferulic acid, umbeliferone and four unidentified compounds.

This spice is use as a condiment and in pickles.   Its odor, when uncooked, is so strong that it must be stored in airtight containers, otherwise the aroma will contaminate other spices stores nearby.  However its odor and flavor become much milder and more pleasant upon heating, acquiring a taste and aroma reminiscent of sautéed onion and garlic.

It is also widely used as antiflatulent, fighting flu, and digestive aid.


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