Everything You Need to Know About Star Anise

The prettiest item in the spice aisle adds rich flavor to both sweet and savory recipes.

Star anise is the most decorative spice you will find in the aisle at the grocery store. The small, star-shaped pods are used as a staple ingredient in dishes for recipes in many cultures. The multi-pronged star anise gets its name from the shape of the pod, and if you've used it in your cooking, you know it adds explosively delicious flavor.

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What Is Star Anise?

Star anise is harvested from a small evergreen tree that grows mostly in southern China and Southeast Asia. It's sometimes referred to as Chinese star anise and is picked before the green fruit fully ripens. The fruit is then dried which allows them to harden. Star anise is one of the ingredients found in Chinese five-spice powder.

Star anise is used in Chinese cuisine, Vietnamese dishes like pho noodle soup, tea blends, sauces, broths, and as a seasoning for roast duck and other meats.

In Western cultures, it is used to flavor liqueurs like after-dinner drinks of sambuca, absinthe, and pastis. The licorice taste also makes it a popular ingredient for baked goods.

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What Does Star Anise Taste Like?

The recognizable licorice taste comes from the same oil found in anise seed. Star anise can take on different flavor profiles depending on how it is used.

It can brighten up a dish or drink, sauces, and desserts. The aromatic profile of star anise adds a mild warmth to mulled drinks like cider and wines. When used in moderation, star anise can deepen the layers of flavor in a hearty meat recipe or stew.

Whole vs. Ground

Whole and ground star anise are used differently in cooking. The whole pods are used in simmering dishes such as soups, stews and braised meats. The pod is added to infuse a warm and spicy layer and is removed at the end of the cooking time.

A ground version of star anise is available in a powder form. The powdered version of star anise starts to lose its potency after it is ground up. In order to use star anise in the most vibrant form, purchase the whole star pod and grind it as needed. The pods and seeds can be ground together.

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Star Anise vs. Anise Seed

These two spices may both be called anise and have a licorice-like flavor. They are often confused with each other, but star anise and anise seed are harvested from different plants on opposite sides of the world.

Star anise comes from the fruit of a tree, with each of the pods containing one seed. Anise seed comes from the anise plant. It is an herb in the parsley family with small, oblong seeds that resemble fennel seeds. The anise seed has the same distinct flavor as star anise, but has a much more subtle presence.

How to Cook with Star Anise

The cooking technique for star anise will depend on whether the recipe calls for using the whole pods or a ground version. This versatile spice can be used in savory recipes for hearty meat dishes, soups, stews, and broths/

Whole pods can be used to simmer in sauces, marinades, and soups but must be removed from the pot or pan before serving. The pods don't soften during the cooking time and are not meant to be consumed.

The whole pods of star anise should be used sparingly as the strong flavor can easily overwhelm the other ingredients in a dish. The ground version of the spice is used like any other spice in the cabinet.

How to Store Star Anise

Star anise can be purchased at your local grocery store, specialty spice shops and online retailers. The spice can be found in small containers, glass jars or sealed bags with the pods as a whole or ground.

Store star anise in an airtight container in a cool, dark place in the kitchen or pantry. The whole star anise remains fresh for one year when stored properly. The ground version of the spice will begin to lose potency after about six to eight months.


Read the original article on All Recipes.