Asafoetida is a dried latex gum (gum oleoresin) extracted from the roots of plants in the Ferula family. It has a rather strong, somewhat unpleasant and pungent odor and is an acquired taste (for sure).
These plants are cultivated and used mainly in the Indian sub-continent. Once cooked, Asafoetida has a smooth leeky flavor. Its primary use is as a digestive aid (hence the reason why this recipe is gentle on the stomach). It is known to reduce the growth of some kinds of gut microflora thereby reducing flatulence. In fact, a concentrated solution of asafoetida in water is often rubbed on the bellies of newborns and infants to reduce symptoms of flatulence and colic. In the practice of Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine, Asafoetida is held in high regard as it has been shown to be effective against a variety of ailments - bacterial and infections, stomach ailments, digestion, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, epilepsy etc. In the western world, asafoetida is used on fishing baits for catfish and pike.