Asafoetida (hing) is the dried latex or gum oleoresin taken from the rhizome (rootstock or taproot) of several species of ferula, which grow mainly in Kashmir and south India. Asafoetida has a very strong, pungent aroma because of the presence of sulfur compounds and was used in more than half of all the recipes in the fourth-century Roman recipe book Apicus.
Legumes and beans and certain vegetables that cause gas are always seasoned with asafoetida to reduce gas and make food light to digest. It also helps to loosen and expel phlegm from the mucous membrane of the bronchial and nasal passages. In India, asafoetida is also used to treat asthma and rheumatism.
Dal is the generic name for all legumes, lentils, dried beans and peas, always prepared in combination with pungent herbs and spices, such as garlic, ginger, onion, black pepper, chilies, mustard seeds, asafoetida, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds, salt, and oil or clarified butter.
Pink Lentils and Turmeric Sautéed with Asafoetida (Dal)
This delicious and healthy recipe is prepared with pink salmon-colored lentils (masoor dal) and is a perfect soup with roti.
1½ cups pink lentils
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
5 cups water
Salt to taste
¼ cup corn oil
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced fine
7 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
½-inch fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
1 small dried red chili
¼ teaspoon asafoetida
1 large tomato, chopped fine
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
Soak the lentils for 10 minutes in a pot of cold water. Rinse and drain the lentils.
In a medium pot, add 5 cups water, turmeric and salt. Cover and boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes until lentils are cooked.
Heat the oil in a wok over high heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and sauté for 1-2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the cumin seeds change color and the mustard seeds start popping. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and red chili and sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the asafoetida and stir thoroughly for 1 minute.
Add the cooked lentils and tomato and stir for for 1-2 minutes. Cover and cook for 6-7 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves. Serve hot with basmati rice or roti, chicken kebab, vegetables, and yogurt salad.
Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net .