Papadum is a wafer thin spicy vegan Indian cracker or flatbread, delicious as a substitute in breadbaskets, and often served as an appetizer topped with chutney. Because Papadum is made with healthy lentil or chickpea flour it contains some fiber, vitamins and valuable phytonutrients.
Papadum also has a distinctive spicy flavor, and the spice that gives it it’s zing is Asafoetida (also known as asafetida). Native to Persia, Afghanistan, and India, Asafoetida is a spice created from the juice and gum of the stems and roots of the “Ferula assafoetida” plant. This Indian food staple, oddly enough, is sometimes called “Devil’s Dung” for it’s astringent taste and odor.
Your humble editor agrees that eating something called “Devil’s Dung” doesn’t sound too enticing. But Asafoetida is rich in many of the same healthful sulphur compounds that give garlic it’s famous health benefits. So you might say the “Devil’s Dung” spice really has some “heavenly” benefits. And while very pungent raw, cooked in dishes the herb imparts a wonderful, leek-like flavor and aroma.
Asafoetida is one of the key digestive herbs in Ayurvedic Medicine. Like Garlic, it’s what’s known as an “adaptogen”, meaning it stimulates healthy digestion while also helping our bodies adapt to stress by calming the nervous system. It’s traditionally relied on to improve our “digestive fire,” and help combat gas and bloating, and help prevent excess phlegm in the body.
In addition, studies in Kaoshing University of Taiwan indicate that, like garlic, Asafoetida’s roots may contain antiviral properties. The herb has been part of Ayurvedic antiviral regimens for centuries, and was one of the plants found to be helpful in combatting the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic.
One tip home chefs have long known: cooking legumes with a small amount of asafetida can eliminate the gas and bloating associated with these foods. Try cooking your next pot of beans with a small amount of this spice for Indian flair and to help prevent “bean gas” in the belly.