A dried latex that comes from the taproot of several species of plants, notably Ferula asa-foetida or Ferula foetida, asafoetida is an inherently Indian spice. It is powerfully flavored and has a very strong scent. When fried briefly in oil, this spice becomes more pleasant and manageable, taking on more garlicky or oniony qualities. This is helpful to those of the Jain religion who are extremely strict in their vegetarian diet and cannot consume any roots, which includes plants like garlic and onions.
Asafoetida is roughly 10-17% essential oil, which is made up of mostly sulfur componds, predominantly 2-butyl-1-propenyl disulfide. These sulfur compounds are what makes this spice smell so strongly!
Some names for this spice include hing, stinking gum, ting, and the common alternate spelling “Asafetida.” There is also the brash “Devil’s dung” moniker that you may come across in some blogs or recipes. In Arabic it is called “haltit” or “abu kabeer,” Mandarin speakers say “ah wei,” it is “assa foetida” or “ferula persique” in French, in German it is either “asant” or “sttinkasant,” Hindi speakers say “hing,” in Japanese “agi asahueteida,” in Portuguese “, in Russian and Spanish it is “asafetida.”