Sunday, August 2, 2009

Spicy Stuff

One of the blogs I follow, brought my attention to this article, which is an interesting take on the spice: asafoetida or hing. My dad loves the spice, and as kid, I hated it.

With age comes maturity, and a tempering of strong emotions, and these days I don't mind it as much.

Interesting tidbits from the article, which I definitely did not know were:

1. its source:

the farmer digs away the soil around the plant and makes an incision in the top of the thick carrot-like root, which then exudes, for about three months, as much as a kilogram of the milky resin. It hardens on exposure to air and gradually turns brown.
2. that asafoetida means "stinking resin" (very apt!). Sulphides are the culprit, as usual. If you recall, a relative - hydrogen sulphide - is partly responsible for smelly farts, and rotten eggs. By the way, it is also flammable, so don't do it near a campfire or a smoker.
3. This is interesting, even ironical, since,

Not unnaturally, the resin has been thought to have very many medicinal uses. Its most common use is to treat indigestion and flatulence. Even today, a bit of it is pasted on the stomach (belly button) of an infant, with the idea that it relieves “locked” gas and aids in digestion.
Apparently this is one of the reasons why it is usually added to dishes containing lentils and beans.
They contain molecules that disturb the enzyme carbonic anlydrase and thus produce gas. And asafoetida helps in relieving this effect – or so the theory goes.
4. Check out the comments on Guru's blog, if you read the article. I really like the keen observation made in the first comment.


Guru said...

Hello Sir,
Nice information regarding Asafoetida, the main flavoring agent of Sambar.
But I feel, the 2-butyl 1-propenyl disulphide present in asafoetida is quite different from Hydrogen sulphide. The 2-butyl 1- propenyl disulphide is the S-S dimer class of organic molecule, where in two sulpher atoms are attached covalently with carbon chains on either side. There are some drugs and bio active molecules containing this disulphide group.
Hydrogen suphide can ionize in aqueous medium and show toxicity by producing HS.
So, I think asafoetida is not dangerous as hydrogen suphide.

Sachin Shanbhag said...

guru, you are right. and since you are the chemist here, anything you say in the future about chemistry is also right :)

i was pointing merely to the origin of the "aroma".

thanks for the clarification.