"Asafoetida (Ferula assafoetida), (also known as devil's dung, stinking gum, asant, food of the gods, giant fennel, hing and ting) is the dried latex (gum oleoresin) exuded from the living underground rhizome or tap root of several species of Ferula, which is a perennial herb (1 to 1.5 m high). The species is native to India. Asafoetida has a pungent, unpleasant smell when raw, but in cooked dishes, it delivers a smooth flavor, reminiscent of leeks."
"To find some asafoetida in Cairo, I headed to the well-known Harraz Herb Shop near bustling Bab al-Khalq square. The shop resembled a medieval apothecary, with row upon row of seeds, powders and baskets of dried plants, and shelves filled with bottles of essential oils. I bought a fist-sized lump of brown-gray resin. Slightly sticky to the touch, it was as dense as a block of wood. Mostly, though, it was remarkable for its terrible, aggressive smell—a sulfurous blend of manure and overcooked cabbage, all with the nose-wrinkling pungency of a summer dumpster. The stench leached into everything nearby, too, which meant I had to double-wrap it and seal it in a plastic tub if I wanted to keep it in the kitchen.
Later, as cookbooks suggested, I unwrapped the lump, scraped off a pea-sized piece of resin and dropped it into olive oil to sauté. The transformation was astonishing: When heated, the asafoetida disintegrated in the hot oil and gave off a rich, savory scent, reminiscent of sautéed onions. It bestowed a delicate base flavoring to the dishes I made. It quickly became obvious why something that had at first seemed so repulsive proved so popular, first in the ancient world and up to the present day in a number of countries—especially India, where it is used in everything from pickled dishes, chutneys and curries to vegetarian dishes and lentils (dal)....
....In the West, asafoetida remains virtually unused, with one exception: It’s an ingredient in Worcestershire sauce."
more fascinating history via saudiaramcoworld.com