Ring, Ring! #Hing is the Key to Cosmic Flavor Success


I’ve been on a journey of sorts attempting to replicate the taste of authentic Indian cuisine, specifically Red Lentil Daal.

I’ve tried it a handful of times and it’s always fallen short of the mark.

But I think I’ve found the missing puzzle piece!

One day, I heard #Aarti Sequeira, Season 6 #FoodNetworkStar winner, talk about hing, and I knew right away that I needed to find it and try again to master the art of daal.

Hing is also known as Asafoetida —  have you ever heard of it? You might remember reading about a foul smelling old herbal remedy used to ward off the flu by wearing an asafoetida bag around one’s neck. It’s folk name is Devil Dung, and that’s about how bad it smells. In its uncooked raw state, it STINKS.

But you shouldn’t judge this herb before trying it.

When cooked, hing becomes fragrant and has a flavor reminiscent of fried onions.

There’s an Indian store, Bharat Bazaar in San Marcos, not too far away from where we live, and I picked up a jar of hing.

This time my Red Lentil Daal was absolutely mouth-watering.

Hing proved to be the missing link, providing an eloquent essence to the other spices: cumin, chili, coriander, ginger, fennel, mustard seed, and cinnamon.

We paired our meal with Truett Hurst 2010 Bewitched Chardonnay from California’s Russian River Valley, a bewitching harmony of fruit and oak.

Hing really is the key to cosmic flavor success. 

Photo courtesy of gernot-katzers-spice-pages.com

Photo courtesy of gernot-katzers-spice-pages.com

But…who was the first person with that light bulb thought about stinky hing transforming itself into something tasty? I mean, it could have been toxic and poisoned everyone, but there was that very first time someone  –probably a woman — plucked it, held their nose, tossed it into a pan, and served it to their family. I like that kind of creativity and imagination.

I did a little more research and leaned a lot about hing (asafoetida) from The Health Site http://health.india.com/diseases-conditions/health-benefits-of-hing/

It enjoys a unique place in Indian cuisine. When cooked with other spices, the strong pungent smell of hing adds a mysterious flavour to dishes. It is used most commonly in dals (lentils), sambars, and various other spicy vegetarian dishes.

In Ayurveda, hing is used to aid digestion, cure colic, and stagnation in the GI tract. Hing burns ama. It is a primary herb for Vata.

It is known to be anti-flatulent, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial; works as a laxative, nerve stimulant, expectorant, and sedative.

Here are the few reported health benefits of hing:

Indigestion– Hing has been used since ancient times as a home remedy for indigestion, the reason why it is routinely used in most day to day Indian cuisine. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties help alleviate digestion problems like upset stomach, intestinal gas, intestinal worms, flatulence,  irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), etc. Drinking a few small pieces of asafoetida dissolved in half a cup of water gives quick relief from indigestion. Hing is an excellent laxative and prevents constipation. A pinch of asafoetida taken with butter milk provides quick relief from flatulence. It is also considered an excellent remedy for colic in babies. Many Ayurvedic preparations available in the market for gastric problems use hing as an ingredient.

Menstrual Problem: Hing can be a powerful against a host of women’s menstrual problems like pain, cramps, irregular periods and dysmenorrhoea. The herb is also useful in the treatment of candida infection and leucorrhoea (thick white/yellow coloured discharge from the vagina).

Impotency: This culinary herb has been used to cure impotency in men. It is also known to increase libido and can be used as an aphrodisiac.

Respiratory Disorders: Hing, one of the oldest remedies to be used for treating respiratory tract infections, acts as a respiratory stimulant and expectorant to release phlegm and relieve chest congestion. Hing mixed with honey and ginger is used for respiratory disorders such as chronically dry cough, whooping cough, bronchitis, asthma, etc. It has also been successfully used to fight influenza. Studies have shown that antiviral drug compounds produced by the roots of the hing plant can kill H1N1, the swine flu virus and can be used for new drug development against the virus.

Diabetes: Hing is used in the treatment of diabetes because it helps pancreatic cells to secrete more insulin thereby decreasing blood sugar levels.  To lower blood sugar levels, eat bitter gourd cooked with hing.

High blood pressure: Coumarins present in the herb aid in thinning of blood and prevent blood clotting. The anticoagulant property along with the healing effect of hing protects against high triglycerides and cholesterol and helps lower blood pressure.

Pain: Taking hing dissolved in water alleviates migraines and headaches. A piece of hing mixed with lemon juice can work wonders for an aching tooth.