At home, there are quite a few spices that fill our cupboards. and then there are others which we use on and off. But if you were to look at our daily cooking, there is not item, a condiment that is quite integral– especially if you are gonna make sambar or a variety of it or one of the many Curry [ these are not the North Indian gravies but dry sautéing of veggies with spices]. I am talking about Asafoetida or Perungayam as we call it out here in the South.
A gum from a tree, this has quite a strong pungent flavour and you are bound to find in almost all kitches. Heck, it is used even in Daals made here at home.
For as long as I can remember there was just one brand that dominated the shelves- LG. We would pick up a box of Compound Asafoetida and another of powdered format. The compound version would be like a small brick of sorts. Gramma would tear it into small pieces, lightly dry saute them and place them in a metal container. This would then be used for Sambar[and varieties], or Koottu[semi gravy where coconut+red chilli/green chilli are ground to a paste and used], certain Greens where it would melt and add flavour to the dish.
On the other hand for vegetable curries, we would invariably use the powder format. It is added to the vegetable or to the tempering .But if you were to forget this ingredient, you would be caught and reprimanded.. lol..
In the recent times with the advent of the new brands, one of them that we have tried out and liked is Patanjali. I was tad sceptical, but a friend said their Asafoetida is good, and contains less flour[ yes, Asafoetida is adulterated with flour] and thus began a new relationship with this brand. We do tend to use lot more of this Asafoetida but the flavour is spot on.
Whenever I went on a trip, especially to the hill stations, I have managed to bring back a small packet of Asafoetida from that region- Ooty, Kodaikanal & Coorg. Mom says the one from Ooty was quite good. Similarly, Granpa used to travel to Flower bazaar and beyond to a small vendor who would sell these in wholesale. These were fun trips, we would drive down, park the car and walk into the narrow alleys looking for the vendor. I would be fascinated the way he made conversation with them….quite an experience!
Over the years, I have also learnt that this condiment has quite a few health benefits as well. Some of them are,
1. It helps control Blood pressure and prevents blood clotting
2. Helps prevent indigestion and is a good Laxative [thereby preventing constipation]
3. Helps deal with the pain related to periods..
4.Asafoetida helps pancreatic cells secrete more insulin, thereby decreasing the blood sugar levels
Do you know of others?
Also, what is that one ingredient/spice/condiment that your kitchen MUST have? Do share your tales…