Whole Star Anise (Illicium verum) is an organic ingredient that is commonly found in Vietnamese and Chinese cooking. Despite similarities with aniseed, star anise is the dried fruit of a completely different tree.
Production: Star anise is the star-shaped (usually eight-pointed) fruit of Illicium verum, an evergreen tree that is native to Northeastern Vietnam and Southwestern China.
Qualities: Also known as star anise seed, Chinese anise, Indian anise, or Badian anise, star anise should not be confused with Japanese star anise, which is highly toxic and inedible. Star anise has a flavor and aroma that is similar to anise and fennel seed, yet it is slightly more pungent, spicy, bitter-sweet, and licorice-like, largely due to the content of the chemical compound anethole.
Common Use: Used in a small amount and added directly when cooking, star anise is the secret to many delicious Asian dishes and teas. It can be found in the traditional Chinese five-spice powder, Indian masala spice blends, and is a major ingredient in the making of the Vietnamese soup pho. Unlike many spices, its flavor infuses effortlessly into water and fat-base liquids alike. It enhances the flavor of a wide variety of meat and vegetable dishes and combines well with cinnamon, chili powder, coriander, garlic, ginger root, and lemongrass.