Asafoetida – A Replacement for Onion & Garlic (Low Fructose)

Yesterday I went into Pike Place Market to (and don’t laugh at me here) take Bailey to see the city we’ve moved to. I know he’s a dog and all but I figured that we had dragged him literally half-way around the world and he hadn’t seen Seattle yet. It’s been 2 years. Plus it was a gorgeous day and who needs more of an excuse than that to go into Seattle to the markets and Fisherman’s Wharf?

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As you can see, we visited the markets and a few shops besides; Bails and Nellie were not only allowed in basically all of the stores that didn’t serve food but they also were given a treat in each one. Spoilt things. Seattle really is very dog friendly. Except for Sound Transit (a bus company) – for some reason dogs have to be crated to go on their buses, whereas King County Metro (the other bus company) has no rules other than you have to pay for a dog that won’t fit on your lap and one big dog per bus… just so you know.

Anyway, back to the Asafoetida, also known as Hing. It is an interesting spice, to say the least.

We visited the World Spice Merchants store, which is just behind Pike Place Market – again, the dogs were allowed in and were given treats – and while browsing, the words “onion and garlic flavours hiding within” popped out at me. This was exciting! While I can eat cooked onion and garlic with no issues, I am always looking for replacements to either put with my recipes here or just in case my FM changes and onions and garlic end up on my no-go list.

*Note* After further research on asafoetida, the powder is usually cut with a tiny amount of rice or wheat flour to prevent clumping. I emailed World Spice Market and their current batch (as of May 2013) contains wheat. If you’ve just got FM, this might be ok for you as you only use a pinch in any recipe; if you have Coeliacs, make sure you find a powder with rice flour only.

Asafoetida is made from the sap excreted from the stem and roots of the giant fennel plant, Ferula Assafoetida, which is dried and then ground into a powder. It cannot be eaten raw, as it can cause severe gastrointestinal upset.

However the dried, powdered form in which it can be purchased in America has been shown to alleviate:

  • Gastrointestinal upset and flatulence
  • Cold and flu symptoms
  • Yest infections
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Hysteria/insanity
  • Pulmonary issues such as bronchitis
  • Some contraceptive effects

References here and here.

It is very popular as a spice in Indian cuisine as well as soups and stews, due to the onion/garlic/leek taste (as well as a truffle flavour) that it can bring to a dish. It apparently pairs well with cauliflower and legumes.

Asafoetida

There can be side effects to Asafoetida, though. Apparently, it is quite efficacious with regards to flavour, so not much is required – it has the nickname “Devil’s Dung” due to its pungent odour when uncooked. I don’t think it smells as bad as that – at least the version that I bought doesn’t; it’s a bit like a strong onion powder smell.

Due to its potential contraceptive effects, it is recommended that women who are aiming to become pregnant, are pregnant or breast-feeding do not consume this spice as it could cause a miscarriage. It should also not be consumed by young children.

On that scary note, I’m going to experiment with it as a flavour enhancer in a few dishes, without intending to use it medicinally.

Does anybody else out there have any experience cooking with Asafoetida? I’d love to get some recommendations.

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How to Fillet a Fish

So you have a fish. This one is a Tilapia.

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But you can’t just cook it as is. Well, you could. But if you only ever ate fish that way it’d get pretty damn boring. So, instead of paying extra for someone else to do the work for you, here is how you do it at home.

How to Fillet a Fish like a Pro

If your fish isn’t gutted, gut it. We didn’t need to do it because the deli did it for us. Take your fish and lay it on its side. Place your filleting blade just behind its side fin/gill region and slice down into the fish until you reach the spine. Next, slide and slice your blade along the length of the fish, next to the spine and over the rib cage, from head to tail.

How to Fillet a Fish

Lift up the flap you created and, using the same knife, slice along the outside of the rib cage to completely remove the fillet from the body. Next, trim the edges of the fillet to make it look more presentable, especially if this is the form it will be cooked in.

How to Fillet a Fish1

If you want to remove the skin, place fish skin-side down with the blade at the tail end. Angle your butcher’s knife as shown, so that it is directed both slightly into the fish and into the cutting board at the same time. Keep tension on the skin and slice slowly and carefully towards the head end. The skin should separate from the meat. It is best to use a sharp but not super-sharp knife for this, or you will just end up cutting through the skin, rather than slicing it off.

How to Fillet a Fish2

You can neaten up the fillet further if you wish, as shown. Also, check for any ribs by rubbing your finger over the fillet; a rib will be felt a little under the surface. Tweezers are very handy for removing pesky ribs.

How to Fillet a Fish3

Finally, repeat for the other side and use your fillets for something delicious.