Star Anise (anise)
Star Anise also known as Aniseed is the unusual fruit of a small oriental tree. It is, as the name suggests, star shaped, radiating between five and ten pointed boat-shaped sections, about eight on average. These hard sections are seed pods. Tough skinned and rust coloured, they measure up to 3cm (1-1/4”) long. The fruit is picked before it can ripen, and dried. The stars are available whole, or ground to a red-brown powder. The use of star anise ensures an authentic touch in the preparation of certain Chinese dishes.
Like anise, star anise has carminative, stomachic, stimulant and diuretic properties. In the East it is used to combat colic and rheumatism. It is a common flavoring for medicinal teas, cough mixtures and pastilles. It is a good source of essential oils and protein.
Star anise is used in the East as aniseed is in the West. Apart from its use in sweetmeats and confectionery, where sweeteners must be added, it contributes to meat and poultry dishes, combining especially well with pork and duck. In Chinese red cooking, where the ingredients are simmered for a lengthy period in dark soy sauce, star anise is nearly always added to beef and chicken dishes. Chinese stocks and soups very often contain the spice.. It flavors marbled eggs, a decorative Chinese hors d’oeuvre or snack. Mandarins with jaded palates chew the whole dried fruit habitually as a postprandial digesant and breath sweetener - an oriental comfit. In the West, star anise is added in fruit compotes and jams, and in the manufacture of anise - flavoured liqueurs, the best known being anisette. It is an ingredient of the mixture known as “Chinese Five Spices”.
The whole spice can be added directly to the cooking pot; pieces are variously referred to as segments, points and sections. Otherwise, grind the whole spice as required. Store in airtight containers, it keeps well for over a year
Small amounts are used, as the spice is powerful in flavor.