Devil’s dung

I did not realise the amount of flavour that the uses of hing gives to our sambhar and rasam until, one day, I cooked them without hing and tasted the concoction. D Balasubramanian, in his latest column writes about the culinary and other uses of hing:

What gives it the pungent smell? It is the sulphides, the simplest of them being the one from the Kipp’s apparatus of high school chemistry lab.

The major component, 2-butyl 1-propenyl disulphide, is so “stinking” that the Europeans called it asafoetida – Asa from the Persian word for resin and foetida meaning ‘stinking’ in Latin. More colorfully it was called the devil’s dung – both for its shape and smell.

Ferula asafoetida is not grown in India, and is a native of Afghanistan, Iran, Turkmenistan and that region of central Asia.

Have a look!


4 Responses to “Devil’s dung”

  1. gaddeswarup Says:

    I am a little puzzled by the following remarks in the article: “And the Mahabharata describes meat being cooked at a picnic, using black pepper, rock salt, pomegranates, lemon and hing.” and “As the resin moved west to Europe, it also moved East to Moghul India. And Indian cuisine and medicine became richer than before.” The first passage suggests that it has been used in India (at least North India) since ancient times and the second suggests more recent use. Am I missing some thing?

  2. Guru Says:

    Dear Swarup,

    I did not notice the inconsistency; I would assume that the second part about Mogul India is related to widespread export of hing and does not refer to first use.


  3. raj Says:

    Guru, far better to have the sambar without the hing than it is to have hing without the sambar, trust me.

    But, seriously, what a wonderful writer, Mr Balasubramanian is. He can make even a dull subject spring to life. I wish he would blog, so that we could interact with him.

  4. Guru Says:

    Dear Raj,

    High without sambar?? That kills me!

    It might not be a bad idea to send a note to Balasubramanian asking him to think about blogging; who knows? He might even!

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