Hing, or Asafetida, is a treasured spice derived from the pungent-smelling resin of a large plant cultivated in India. Its characteristic odor comes from sulfur compounds that are so off-putting it became known throughout Europe as “the devil’s dung”, yet, when properly blended and used in just the right amount, the aroma and flavor mellow beautifully, blending with a variety of aromatic dishes, hinting at the presence of fragrantly sautéed leeks, onions, shallots and garlic. Because Hing is so pungent, it’s sold ground and mixed with stabilizers such as wheat or rice flour, or gum arabic.
Hing is said to convey both medicinal and culinary benefits. Use in small quantities – a little bit goes a long way. Begin with ¼ teaspoon, more or less, adding to broth, water and other soup-base liquids, as well as healthful cooking oils such as olive, sesame, coconut or ghee.