(also known as asafoetida) is used sparingly in Mid-Eastern cuisines. This flavoring is produced predominantly in India and Iran. Unlike many spices, which are actually seeds, asafetida is derived from a milky sap found in the stalk of a large fennel-like plant. The sap is reduced to a resin and sold either in lumps or in a powdered form. Sulphur compounds in the sap explain its rather unpleasant smell. The taste is bitter, but when heated it releases an onion flavor. During the Dark Ages in Western Europe, spices were creatively used to integrate a variety of flavors such as sweet, sour and pungent. Asafetida was commonly used in harmony with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves. In Indian foods, it is frequently used to flavor vegetable and legume dishes, sauces and pickles. The lump form can be rubbed on a grilled prior to grilling meat. It is always used sparingly. Available in Indian and Mid-Eastern grocery stores, asafetida should be stored in a dry, cool cabinet, in an airtight jar and out of direct light. It may keep for several months up to a year. A fresh lump of asafetida will actually keep for several years.
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