Star Anise, Versatile and Mysterious

Star anise is an aromatic, star-shaped spice that provides the licoricelike notes in Chinese five-spice powder. It's an essential ingredient in pho and Chinese red-cooked meats, but Chowhounds think it complements many foods, both sweet and savory. It's best to be conservative with this spice, warns JungMann: "It's a very strong flavor that can go from a hint of anise to disgusting black licorice very quickly."

"Throw a couple of whole ones in your next beef or pork pot roast," suggests DoobieWah. "It adds a great flavor note that will have your guests scratching their heads wondering." "I like it crushed with some friendly spices (cloves, cinnamon, etc.) and added to a few glugs of port and some smashed garlic cloves for braised pork belly or lamb shanks," says eight_inch_pestle.

Val loves this spicy braised chicken with mushrooms and star anise. "Your entire home will have the aroma of anise wafting throughout, so very magical!" she rhapsodizes. hill food likes "to soak a few in water and toss on the coals for the smoke when grilling."

Star anise also pairs well with fruits and sweets. Add it to poached pears, or a plum, peach, or cherry compote. Drop one in your holiday cranberry sauce, or steep it in the cream for crème brûlée, panna cotta, or ice cream. Hounds also use it in apple butter and pickled peaches, and HillJ says, "I enjoy the flavor of star anise in a fresh pitcher of sangría. Also nice to add one in each glass."

Discuss: What do you use star anise in? Fuchsia Dunlop to the rescue! Other ideas?

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