Monday, January 25, 2010
Experimenting with Asafoetida
When I went hiking in Nepal many years ago, I overdosed on dal. It was served at every meal (and it was usually the only thing served). Upon returning to NYC, I swore I would never touch it again. However, over the years my friend Rupal has served it to me on a few occasions and I begrudgingly admitted to myself that I liked it. When she made it, it was rich and buttery – completely different from the watery and sandy dal lurking in my memory.
A few weeks ago, she revealed her ‘secret’ dal ingredient – Asafoetida – and credited it with adding that rich and buttery flavor I raved about. Yesterday I made my bimonthly trek to the Indian market to buy henna and picked up some Asafoetida while I was there. A quick Google search revealed that its odor is so strong that it needs to be stored in an airtight container to avoid contaminating all your spices. It also has contraceptive qualities and is an antiflatulent. Sold.
I followed a basic dal recipe and spent the early evening chopping chilies, cilantro, garlic and ginger. As directed, I made sure to add the asafetida when the oil was hot and I was careful to just add a pinch. The odor wasn’t as strong as I had expected and powder disappeared quickly in the oil…a tad anticlimactic I suppose.
The dal was soon ready. It wasn’t bad for a first try although the consistency was a bit too similar to mashed potatoes. Come to think of it, aren’t people always wishing their mashed potatoes were a bit richer…a bit more buttery? Next experiment? Asafoetida Mashed Potatoes.