The Beautiful Spice: Star Anise

What is anis étoilé?

Star anise is the seed pod from the fruit of the Illicium verum plant, an evergreen shrub native to Southwest China. The star anise pod, which is shaped like a star (hence its name), has an average of eight points, each containing a single pea-sized seed. Both the seeds and the pod are used in cooking and contain the sweet, potent anise flavor. Star anise is sold whole and ground. It’s a spice made from the fruit of the Chinese evergreen tree Illicium verum. It’s aptly named for the star-shaped pods from which the spice seeds are harvested and has a flavor that is reminiscent of licorice. Because of similarities in their flavor and names, star anise is often confused with anise, though the two spices are unrelated. Star anise is famed not only for its distinct flavor and culinary applications but also for its medicinal benefits.


Star Anise Vs Anise seed

Star anise and anise seed are often confused with each other due to their similar taste and name. However, these two plants are not from the same plant family—star anise is from the magnolia whereas aniseed is from the parsley family. The seeds also differ in appearance; star anise seeds are larger and a dark reddish-brown color while anise seeds are smaller and look more like fennel seeds. It is also important not to confuse star anise with the Japanese star anise, Illicium anisatum, which is highly toxic and must not be consumed.1 It is often burned as incense.


What does it taste like?

The flavor of anise is essentially the flavor of licorice, whether licorice root or a piece of licorice candy. It’s a very particular flavor that you’ll notice in other foods like fennel and Thai basil once you’ve tasted it. Star Anise has a very strong, distinct flavor that is warm, sweet, and spicy, similar to licorice, fennel seed, clove, and anise seed, of course. Although the flavor of star anise is generally thought of as sweet, it is commonly used in savory dishes; it pairs well with citrus, onions, poultry, beef, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger and should be used in small quantities. It can be described as sweet, but not in a cane sugar sort of way. It’s more of an herbal sweetness, similar to stevia. This is a powerful spice, and though it’s not for everyone, many people love to cook and bake with it. 


Nutrition Benefits

Star anise has been used in traditional Chinese medicine since antiquity, and still has a reputation for its restorative qualities today. Herbs and spices are often unsung heroes of the health and nutrition world and star anise may be no exception. Information on its vitamin and mineral content is lacking, but considering the small amount of spice you may use at any one time, its nutritional value may be less significant. Nonetheless, it’s an impressive source of several powerful bioactive compounds — all of which are vital contributors to good health. The most valuable component of star anise may lie within its dense supply of flavonoids and polyphenols. These may primarily be responsible for the spice’s broad applications and medicinal benefits. 


Culinary
Uses

Though its strong flavor necessitates a cautious approach, a little star anise can add an exotic and nuanced element to a wide variety of dishes. Typically, one flower or a smaller portion is added to a dish whole, then removed prior to serving. 

Any dish with citrus elements will benefit from the addition of star anise. The inclusion of star anise in bright and bold lemon spiced rice or dhal, for example, will give a subtle, sagacious twist to the flavor and a delicate licorice aroma. In what was once the French quarter of India, recipes taking creole influences such as curried prawns also develop a more grown-up taste when exposed to a little of the aromatic spice. It is also used in the production of sambuca, pastis, and many types of absinthe. Star anise enhances the flavor of meat. It is used as a spice in preparation of biryani and masala chai all over the Indian subcontinent. It is widely used in Chinese cuisine, and in Indian cuisine where it is a major component of garam masala, and in Malay and Indonesian cuisines. It is widely grown for commercial use in China, India, and most other countries in Asia. Star anise is an ingredient of the traditional five-spice powder of Chinese cooking. It is also a major ingredient in the making of phở, a Vietnamese noodle soup. Star anise has been used in tea as a traditional remedy.


Storage

Store both whole or ground spice in an air-tight container away from moisture, heat, and sunlight. Whole star anise will remain fresh and vibrantly flavored for about one year, whereas the ground spice will begin to lose flavor after about six months. Toasting the ground spice before using sometimes heightens the flavor.

It is clear that star anise is just one of the many spices that bring Asian food to life. Share your thoughts on this beautiful spice Star Anise. You can also share your recipe with us on ‘Submit your recipe’ We’d love to hear from you!

Organic Star Anise Whole

 


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