Friday, 1 March 2013

Ingredient of the Month 18: Hing

This is compound hing: the pure resin is somewhat darker reddish/orangey- brown

"Vandevi", a popular brand of compound hing, available in the UK. It contains both rice and wheat flours.

Those of you who know this blog will probably remember that in our house we offer all our food to Lord Krishna as naivedyam, and since onions and garlic are not offerable, we don't cook with them. (Go to this page and this post for more information about this and other bhakti yoga practices.) You will have noticed by now that in recipes such as pizza and hummus, an ingredient called hing takes their place. Hing is a great spice in its own right, but also its pungency does somewhat make up the flavour in dishes that traditionally contain a lot of onion and/ or garlic. We thought this post might be useful for those of you who are unfamiliar with hing.
Hing, also known as asafoetida, asant, giant fennel, jowani badian, stinking gum or even "Devil's dung", comes from root of the ferula plant, a perennial member of the carrot family. The living rhizome of this plant exudes a highly pungent resin- hence all the names. When cooked, however, it becomes much more pleasant; a lot like leeks. The plant is native to the mountains of Afghanistan, but is grown mainly in India. It found its way round the ancient world (the Romans knew it well as a medicine) but by Medieval times had been all but forgotten in Europe.
The pure dried resin is dark amber colour, and really hard to grate- you may end up smashing it with a hammer to get suitably small pieces. I knew a wholefood shop where you could buy the pure resin already powdered; the smell was so strong they had to double-wrap the bags of powder and put them in a sealed glass jar! Compound hing, pictured above, is usually about 30% asafoetida resin mixed with gum arabic plus wheat and/ or rice flour. Compound hing is what's used in all of the recipes we've posted here to date. If you have pure hing, then you will need to reduce the amounts accordingly. I do use compound hing raw, but in very small amounts; it's great in things like hummus, which would normally contain garlic.
Medicinal Value: 
According to Ayurveda, hing balances the vata and kapha (air and water-earth) doshas. The effect is to relieve flaulence and colic, and aid digestion (as hing aggravates the pitta- fire- dosha).
In Western medicine, hing has been found to have antiviral properties; as long ago as 1918, it was used to fight the Spanish 'flu pandemic. More recently, research from Taiwan has found that antiviral compounds in hing root can kill the swine flu (H1N1) virus.


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5 comments:

  1. Hi - just wanted to say that I've been visiting and completely loving your blog! Great work. I find it interesting that you are trying a vegan lifestyle and Krishna Bhakts at the same time (he of the butter, milk, etc. loving variety!) - but I can see how it must have come about. I also like hing. :)

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  2. I like hing.. Off hand I cant think of a sabji where I don't put hing!

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  3. BEfore marriage if my mom use hing in food i will run to the neighbor's house, now i just love adding it in food.

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