Alternative names: Chinese anise, anise stars
One of nature’s most beautiful and practical spices, star anise is the dried fruit of a small Asian evergreen tree. It takes the form of an eight-pointed star, with each spoke containing a shiny, polished seed. Star anise contains anethole, the same ingredient that gives the unrelated anise its flavour. Its taste profile is warm, woody and aniseed-like; its aroma is pungent, like sweet liquorice. The culinary use of star anise, once concentrated in China and Vietnam, has over time influenced food across the whole of Asia. It did not arrive in Europe until the 16th century; once it did so, the essential oils of star anise were extracted and used in the manufacturing of confectionery, and liqueurs like Galliano.
A key flavour of Chinese savoury cooking, it is also found in many Indian stews, curries and other South East Asian recipes. Star anise contributes flavour to meat and poultry dishes, combining especially well with pork and duck. A dominant ingredient in the Chinese five spice blend, its strength means that only a small amount be needed when used in cooking. Thirteen times sweeter than sugar, star anise – with its unique spicy liquorice flavour – is becoming a favourite amongst cooks creating ever more interesting desserts.
Produce of Hanoi, Northern Vietnam