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Nov 13, 2006 10:07 PM

Asafoetida powder

first off, i have never tried it, but i have a recipe i have been wanting to try that asks for it, where might i buy it, and is there a substitute?

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  1. You can get it online (say, from amazon: or try a local Indian grocery store.

    1. can you use onion powder or ground nigella seeds? It seems like the approximate flavor replacement.

      7 Replies
      1. re: ghbrooklyn

        This is what I was going to suggest (if you can't find it). It's generally used as a substitute for onions and/or garlic (my understanding is that this is because those are root vegetables, and to cook them would be to kill the plant, but that's just a bone head's understanding of the world!)

        1. re: Smokey

          no that is true. It is very important in Brahman cooking(I think) because they cannot eat onions.

          1. re: ghbrooklyn

            I guess that begs the question--why can't they eat onions?!

            1. re: Smokey

              onions, garlic, alcohol and some other foods are believed to excite the body and can lead to actions that have "Karmic impact" and will hinder the spiritual quest.

              1. re: Smokey

                I had been told they can't eat garlic and onions because they are associated with being meat seasonings and they are therefore out due to their connection with meat. But, a lapsed brahman was one who told me this so he might not be the best of sources.

                1. re: Atahualpa

                  I would probably be a lapsed brahman, too. I like onions too much.

                  1. re: Atahualpa

                    No, it's because garlic and onions are considered "tamasic" foods, which leave a smell and supposedly make you sluggish and dull your mind. I think you can find "tamasic" on Wikipedia if you look it up.

          2. You will see it labled HING powder. Same stuff. It should be available in store that carry Middle Eastern foods and foods from India etc.

            1. If you are in Brooklyn, you should be able to get it at Sahadi or at Eastern Produce or one of the punjabi stores on Coney Island Ave. Any Indian store would have it (for example in the E.20s on Lex, Kalustyan, etc.Usually it is sold in little round plastic containers (yellow?).
              You just use a pinch at a time, its quite strong and savory.

              Im not totally clear on the onion/garlic ban - there are different rationales - the Jains generally dont eat things that have been grown down in the earth, potatoes, beets, onions, etc, because of the possibility that a living thing might be in it. - some hindu groups avoid onions and garlic, I believe because they are considered "heating" or stimulating. Asafoetida/hing is sulpherous, so it contributes similar flavor qualities as the onions/garlic.

              4 Replies
              1. re: jen kalb

                i am unfortunately stuck in rural saskatchewan... a long long way from brooklyn, so i think i will have to shop online

                1. re: RiJaAr

                  sorry, I thought I was responding to ghbrooklyn - Penzeys or Kalustyan both have it if you are shopping online. Quite essential if you are making dal or so indian dishes - you can order whole black mustard seeds, cumin seed, fennel, cinnamon stick, etc to filll out your order.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    Of topic, but if you are ordering spices, see if they have Anar Dana(there is another name for it too but I can't remember it at the moment) which is dried and crushed pomegranate seeds and is one of my favorite recent spice finds. Gives a sweet-sour flavor to vegetable dishes, which I think is its main use in Indian and Pakistani cooking(someone correct me please).
                    Another use I have found is adding it to a compound butter to be put under the skin of a roasted chicken. Damn its good!

                2. re: jen kalb

                  thanks jen for the onion/garlic info expansion. I am in Kensington and hing is available right around the corner from my house.
                  I don't think I could live without eating a beet or an onion!

                3. It is indeed "similar" in a broad way to onions and garlic, but neither tastes the same as the other. So yeah, you can live without it, but if you're going to order spices anyway, do order this.

                  All you'll find will be labelled "compounded", which is fine, but you want the powder rather than the hard brown blocks. It tastes better and is a lot easier to work with. And if you don't already have a small, very tightly sealable jar handy, get one before it arrives. ;) At first sniff, it'll be hard to imagine eating it, but it won't taste the way it smells when you're done.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: MikeG

                    To expand a bit on the smell - to me, the smell of Asafoetida powder closely resembles that of a sweat-drenched, rancid undershirt. You will want to store it in several airtight containers and away from other spices. But, as also mentioned, the flavor it produces when you cook with it is not at all unpleasant.

                    1. re: kstroble

                      I keep it wrapped up in plastic bags in the freezer.