Hing or Asofetida is perhaps the smelliest of all spices. I had never thought of using it. “It is the worst smell on earth!”, according to my father, who endured smelly suits for a whole month – because of Hing! He was in Nigeria then, he had taken along a dozen bottles of hing in his suitcase, for a friend. As luck or ill-luck would have it, during the journey the hing sprinkled on his clothes, including his favorite suit. No amount of dry cleaning or washing helped him get rid of that “obnoxious” smell and he had to wear those smelly clothes for his business meetings.
My mother never used hing in her cooking, I did not feel the need either. Not until now. On our recent visit to India, I kept hearing about the medicinal properties of hing, it aids digestion, it can be substituted for onion, garlic and ginger. It especially helps make the daals and beans ( garbanzo/kidney) less gassy. I was sold.
I bought it freshly ground from a store just a day before leaving Bangalore. I put the bottle of hing in the outer pocket of the suitcase, which still smells of hing after two months. At first I was terrified that the smell would take over the entire house.
But then, it wasn’t that hard to isolate it, I encased it in a bottle containing lavender and tea bags.. Incidentally, I learned that used tea bags absorbed odors and smells of all kinds…I open the cap just a little bit, sprinkle it and snap it shut right away. All you need is “just a pinch.”
Now, that I have started using hing in my spice blends – Goda Masala, Sambhar Masala and daal & cholle, I have no idea how I lived without it. It adds a distinct flavor, and you can get away without adding garlic and ginger – makes life simpler!