You are on page 1of 4

ASAFOETIDA/ASAFETIDA

The name asafoetida is derived from the Persian word aza , meaning resin, and the Latin word foetida, meaning fetid or bad smelling. Asafoetida was known to early Persians as the food of the Gods and to the Romans who used it to flavor sauces and wines, as Persian sylphium . Europeans equated its smell to truffles and the French flavored mutton during the early Middle Ages, after which, its use declined. In ancient India and Iran, asafoetida was used as a condiment and as a medicine. Today, asafoetida is commonly used in the vegetarian cooking of South India and Bengal. Scientific Name(s): Ferula asa-foetida L (hing type); F. foetida (hingra type). Family: Umbelliferae (carrot family) or Apiaceae (parsley family). Common Names: asafetide, stinking gum, and devils dung. It is also called haltit, abu kabeer (Arabic), ah ngaih, ah wei (Cantonese, Mandarin), asa foetida, duivelsdrik (Dutch), retshina fena, anghuzeh (Farsi), assa foetida, ferula persique (French), asant/stinkasant (German), aza (Greek), hiltit (Hebrew), hing (Hindi, Bengali), assafetida (Italian), agi asahueteida (Japanese), ma ha hing (Laotian), kaayam (Malayalam), asafetida (Russian), asafetida (Spanish), mvuje (Swahili), dyvelstrack (Swedish), perungayam (Tamil), inguva (Telegu), seytanterin (Turkish), and anjadana (Urdu). Origin and Varieties: asafoetida is indigenous to Iran, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. It is also found in Russia and China. There are many varieties, but the two most commonly sold varieties are called in Hindi language, hing (water soluble) and hingra (oil soluble). The former is more popular because of its aroma. Each type shows more sweetness or bitterness depending on its country of origin. Form: it is a congealed, dark brown to black resinlike gum obtained from the juice of the rhizome of the ferula or giant fennel plant. After drying, it becomes a darker brown mass. It is sold as different grades of resin, dried granules, chunks, or powders. Properties: the resin is a pale brown color that darkens after drying. It is acrid with a strong garliclike odor and bitter, unpleasant back notes. If it is used sparingly and fried in oil, pleasant shallot and garliclike notes develop. The powder is less intense and can be added to dishes without prior frying. The commercial paste and
70 Handbook of Spices, Seasonings, and Flavorings, Second Edition

powdered forms are resin mixed with diluents such as rice flour, cereal flour, or gypsum and are, thus, less intense in taste. The hing type is white or pale in color, while the

hingra type is darker, almost black, in color. Chemical Components: its repugnant strong smell is due to sulfur compounds (that disappear during cooking) and ferulic esters. Dried asafetida consists of resin (comprising 25% to 60% of total) which consists of essential oil (10% to 17%), gum (25% to 48%), esters (40% to 60%) and ash (1% to 10%). The essential oil has an abundance of sulfur compounds, mainly 50% of 2-butyl-1-propenyl disulfide, 1-1-methylthiopropyl disulfide, and 2-butyl-3-methylthioallyl disulfide with some terpenes ( -pinene, phellandrene), and farnesiferoles. How Prepared and Consumed: Iranians and Asian Indians use it abundantly in vegetarian dishes. Asian Indians fry the resin in oil for a few minutes to disperse it well before it is mixed with other ingredients. The unacceptable smell disappears when it is cooked. At very low or pinch levels, asafoetida enhances many dishes such as fish curries, brined or pickled fish, spiced legumes, vegetables, chewda (Indian snack), relish, and even Worcestershire sauce. South Indians use it in sambar podi, a spice blend added to legume dishes to enhance their flavor and to prevent flatulence. Jains, a religious group in India, do not eat root vegetables or root spices such as garlic, onion, ginger, or turmeric, for fear of killing living organisms. Therefore, they rely on asafoetida as an alternative flavoring. The Brahmins, who will not eat garlic or onions because they consider them aphrodisiacs, also use asafoetida as a substitute flavoring. It pairs well with nuts, grains, legumes, mushrooms, vinegar, and grilled, barbecued, or roasted meats. Iranians rub asafoetida on warmed plates before placing meat on them. Afghans and Persians also eat the stem and the leaves as vegetables, the odor disappearing once they are boiled. Spice Blends: sambar podi, dal podi, chat masala, and chewda blend. Therapeutic Uses and Folklore: Romans used asafoetida to aid digestion and as an aphrodisiac. In India and Iran, it is used to treat hysteria and taken as an antispasmodic, anticoagulant, and sedative. Asafoetida is also used to reduce flatulence and to treat nervous disorders. In India, singers take asafoetida before singing because it supposedly mellows their voices and produces a sensation of warmth. Asafoetida has antibiotic and antimicrobial properties.

BASIL
The name basil is derived from the Greek word basileus, meaning king because of its wonderful royal fragrance. The French call it herb royale. In ancient times, basil was considered to have magical properties. The Greeks gave basil the name basilisk because it was reputed to provide protection from a half-lizard, half-dragon monster of the same name. Holy basil is used in India mainly for religious purposes for Hindu temple ceremonies. This basil, called tulsi, is woven into a garland to grace the Hindu God, Lord Vishnu. Tulsi is named after Lord Vishnus wife, Goddess Tulasi, who took the form of this leafy spice when she came down to earth.
A to Z Spices 71

Today, there are many emerging basil varieties in the U.S. from Mexico, Africa, and Asia. Sweet basil is the most popular type in North American, Italian, and other European and Mediterranean cuisines. Thai basil (also called anise basil), lemon basil, and holy basil are popular in Southeast Asian and South Asian cooking. Scientific Name(s): Sweet basil: Ocimum basilicum, holy basil: Ocimum sanctum, lemon basil: Ocimum basilicum citriodorum, cinnamon basil: Ocimum basilicum cinnamon, curly basil: Ocimum basilicum crispum, and Japanese basil or

shiso/jiso: Perilla frutescens. Family: Lamiaceae (mint family). Common Names: sweet basil, herb royale, and great basil. Also called besobila (Amharic), habaq, reehan (Arabic), lo lak/lo le, yu xiang ca (Cantonese, Mandarin), basilicum (Dutch), reihan (Farsi), basilie/basilic commun (French), basilikum (German), vasilikos (Greek), reihan (Hebrew), barbar (Hindi), basilico (Italian), bajiru (Japanese), paqe i tou (Laotian), daun selasih/kemangi (Malay, Indonesian), manjericao (Portuguese), bazilik (Russian), suwndutala (Singalese), albahaca, alfabega (Spanish), mrihani (Swahili), basilika/basilkort (Swedish), balanoi (Tagalog), tiruniripacha (Tamil), rudrajada (Telegu), reyhan (Turkish), and e tia (Vietnamese). Anise basil or true Thai basilbai horapha (Thai), daun selaseh, (Malaysian, Indonesian), and rau que (Vietnamese). Lemon basildaun kemangi (Malaysian, Indonesian), and bai maenglak (Thai). Holy basil or sacred basilbabui tulasi (Bengali), laun (Burmese), tulsi (Hindi), sulasi, ruku-ruku (Malay), Sivatulasi (Malayalam), sapha (Laotian), madurutala (Singhalese), sulasi (Tagalog), tulasi (Tamil), bai krapao (Thai), oddhi (Telegu), jangli tulsi (Urdu), and e do (Vietnamese). Japanese basil or shiso/jiso-Also called ban tulsi (Bengali), sou yihp, xiang su (Cantonese, Mandarin), shiso blad (Dutch), Chinese basil, sesame leaf, beefsteak plant (English), sesame sauvage (French), perilla (German) perila (Hebrew), bhanjira (Hindi), jiso (Japanese), tulkae (Korean), daun shiso (Malay, Indonesian), nga chien chin (Laotian), perilla (Russian), bladmyanta (Swedish), nag mon (Thai), perilla and la tia to (Vietnamese). Origin and Varieties: basils are indigenous to Europe, India, and Southeast Asia. They are cultivated in Iran, Africa, Seychelles, Southeast Asia, Greece, Italy, France, Egypt, Hungary, Morocco, southern Europe, Japan, and the United States (California). Many types of basils exist. They vary in size, color, and flavor intensity based on their origins and climatic and soil conditions, all of which affect their chemical components. Sweet basil is most commonly used in the United States, but there are many other emerging varieties, including holy, lemon, Thai, dark opal, shiso, Cuban, West African, cinnamon, East Indian, purple ruffle, minty Egyptian, and many more. Even with sweet basil, flavor variations occur, depending on its country of origin. Form: basil comes fresh, dried, or as a paste in oil. Fresh basil is used whole, chopped, or pureed. Dried basil is used as ground and as particulates of varying sizes. The dried form is less aromatic than the fresh form. Sweet basil has bright green leaves. Thai basil is similar in size to sweet basil, but with purplish stems and veins. Holy basil is smaller and narrower, with a dark green to almost reddish purple tinge. Lemon basil is paler in color than Thai basil. Japanese basil (shiso) is light to dark green.
72 Handbook of Spices, Seasonings, and Flavorings, Second Edition

Properties: the Mediterranean or European-type sweet basil has a sweet and floral, anise-like aroma with cooling clovelike undertones. Its taste is delicate and fresh with slight minty notes. Its delicate aroma decreases with cooking. Thai basil has a sweet aniselike aroma and licorice-like notes with a spiciness that sweet basil does not have. It has strong, phenolic notes, with a lingering aftertaste. Holy basil has a strong, pungent clove and allspice-like, slightly musky taste with a camphoraceous aroma. Lemon basil has a slightly spicy, lemony taste with a distinct fruity aroma. Cinnamon basil has overtones of cinnamon, while curly basil has sharper and harsher notes than sweet basil. Japanese basil or shiso is aromatic with a flavor that is a cross between basil and mint. Eaten by the Chinese in the past, it fell out of favor, and when it was introduced to Japan, it became popular in fresh or pickled forms. It is sold in Japan as a green-type (ao-jiso) and a red-type (aka-jiso). Chemical Components: the differences in aroma among basils are due to their differing chemical components, especially methyl chavicol (or estragole), linalool, citral, methyl cinnamate, eugenol or 1,8-cineole. Monoterpenes (ocimene, geraniol, camphor), sesquiterpenes (bisabolene, caryophyllene), and methyl eugenol influence

their overall flavor. The dominant aroma component in sweet basil is linalool, in holy basil is eugenol, and in Thai (anise type) basil is methyl chavicol. Sweet basil has about 0.5% to 1.1% essential oil, mainly linalool (40%) and methyl chavicol (25%), with the remainder consisting of eugenol, 1,8-cineole, and geraniol. In anise or Thai basil, 85% of the essential oil is methyl chavicol (which oxidizes when exposed to light and air), less than 1% is linalool, and the rest consists of camphor, borneol, eugenol, and 1,8-cineole. Perilla/shiso has 0.2% essential oil, the main component, about 75% being perillaldehyde, with limonene, linalool, -caryophyllene, and -pinene. Mexican basil has methyl cinnamate, 1,8 cineol, estragole, and bisabolene, cinnamon basil mainly methyl cinnamate, lemon basil citral, and African basil, camphor. Sweet basil oleoresin is dark green and viscous, and 0.75 lb. are equivalent to 100 lb. of freshly ground basil. Fresh sweet basil contains folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, while dried basil contains vitamin A, potassium, vitamin C, sodium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, folic acid, and manganese. How Prepared and Consumed: basil is widely used in Italian, Southeast Asian, and Mediterranean foods. It is mainly used as a garnish whole, chopped, or minced. Basil turns black in an acid medium and loses its aroma easily when heat is applied. Because sweet basils delicate aroma is easily destroyed during cooking, it is frequently added whole or chopped to cold or warm dishes just before serving. Basil combines well with tomatoes, garlic, nuts, olive oil, olives, ginger, capers, pungent sharp cheeses, coriander leaf, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, and white and black pepper. The popular pesto alla Genovese, from Liguria, Italy, made with sweet basil, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and olive oil is tossed with pasta. Another pesto from southern Italy, called pesto rosso, is made with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh sweet basil, chilies, pine nuts, cheese, and olive oil. Italians also enjoy sweet basil in insalata caprese (tomato slices topped with mozzarella and sweet