A star-shaped, dark brown pod that contains a pea-size seed in each of its eight segments. Native to China and Vietnam, star anise comes from a small evergreen tree. It's flavor is slightly more bitter than that of regular anise seed. Asian cooks use star anise to give a licorice flavor to savory dishes, particularly those with pork and poultry. It's available whole or ground and is an ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder. Use it sparingly - a little goes a long way.
Star anise can be found as one of five spices used in Chinese 5 spice powder. You can make your own delicious five spice powder by grinding your star anise and mixing it with the other 4 spices – cloves, fennel seeds, cinnamon and Sichuan pepper.
When used alone, star anise is used to sweeten and flavor soups, stews and various other dishes. Be careful not to use too much as the unmistakable flavor can become overpowering. A piece or two should be sufficient or you can use a pinch or two of powdered star anise instead.
Star anise is also regularly used as an ingredient in sweet dishes like puddings and pastries. Be adventurous and experiment a bit if you enjoy the flavor.
Star anise is often used to make a soothing and healing tea. Star anise tea is an excellent remedy for various digestive issues, coughs and sore throats. It is usually made with the seeds. To make star anise tea follow these simple instructions:
Boil your water and pour it into a teapot.
Add 2 star anise seed pods for each cup of water then allow it to seep for up to 15 minutes.
Strain the tea into a cup and add some honey to taste.
Drink after each meal if you are trying to deal with a digestive problem or a cough.