Star anise

Other Names: Anasphal or badayan (Hindi); anice stellato (Italian); anis estrellado (Portuguese); anis de la Chine or anis étoilé (French); anís estrellado (Spanish); anison or glikaniso asteroeides (Greek); ba jiao (Mandarin); baat gok (Cantonese); badian anise; cay hoi (Vietnamese); Chinese anise; daiuikyou or hakkaku (Japanese); Indian anise; pok kak bua (Thai); sternanis (German).

General Description: Star anise (Illicium verum¬) has mahogany-colored, star-shaped fruit with an aroma similar to, but more potent than, anise. Star anise is always used dried. The essential oil of star anise resides in the pericarp (fruit walls), not the seeds, and is pungent and lingering like licorice, with warm sweet spice notes of clove and cassia. Star anise commonly has eight points (though it may be found with as many as twelve); in Chinese, its name means “eight corners.” Individual sections of dried star anise will often split, revealing the shiny, light brown, pointy seed within, which is nutty and mild. Most star anise comes from China, but it’s also grown in Laos, the Philippines, and Jamaica.

Star anise is popular in Chinese cuisine, especially for braised pork and roast chicken, and it’s essential to Chinese five-spice powder. In northern Vietnam, star anise flavors beef soups. In northern Thailand, it goes into stews; in the tropical south, it flavors iced tea. Star anise is used occasionally in Persian and Moghul Indian biriyani rice dishes and in succulent meat curries. In Europe, star anise is mainly used as a substitute for the more expensive anise; although the two species are unrelated, both contain the essential oil anethole.

Purchase and Avoid: Buy whole star anise pods with as few broken pieces as possible. Look for star anise in Asian markets, but be aware that a bin of Chinese star anise may possibly be contaminated with or confused with the closely related and similar-looking but poisonous Japanese star anise (I. anisatum). This type, which can be identified by its lack of anise aroma and turpentine-like flavor, is often used for potpourri.

Storage: In whole form star anise keeps well for 1 year or more.

Serving Suggestions: Boil carrots with water, butter, and star anise. Simmer sections of pork tenderloin in a sauce made from sautéed ginger, rice wine, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sugar, and star anise. Add 2 or 3 star anise pods to the liquid for poaching fruit.

Food Affinities: Asian pear, beef, black cardamom, carrot, chiles, cinnamon, fig, garlic, ginger, honey, pear, pork, port wine, rhubarb, scallion, soy sauce, Szechuan pepper, white chocolate.

from Quirk Books: