Species: Illicium verum
Other names: Bead tree, margosa
Appearance: Five to ten rich dark brown seed pods make up a star. The seeds inside the pods are a consistent light brown.
Typically used: Whole or ground
Origin: Star anise, the star shaped fruit of an oriental tree, originated in China and Vietnam.
Flavor: Bitter and reminiscent of anise
Aroma: The pods smell of licorice and are stronger than normal anise.
Culinary uses: Star anise can be used whole, in sections, or ground. A little goes a long way with this spice as the flavor is strong. The spice is used in sweets, with the addition of sweeteners to combat the bitterness, but is more commonly found in meat and poultry dishes. It is an ingredient in the warming Indian spice blend, garam masala, and Masala chai. Star anise fits wonderfully in tomato sauces and braised beef dishes. The spice is very common in Chinese cuisine, including soups, sauces, meat and chicken dishes, and eggs. Star anise is an ingredient in the spice blend, Chinese five spice.
Did you know? For centuries, people have been using star anise to make infused drinking water or infusing star anise with other spices into their broths and stocks. To infuse your water, simply drop one star anise in a water jug, and next day the water will be incredibly fragrant!