Star Anise in our A-Z - Cooking Index
Star anise is the dried fruit of a small to medium sized evergreen tree, which belongs to the magnolia family and grows up to 8m (26ft).
It is one of the spices used in the spice mix called Five-Spice and it is used in certain Chinese dishes such as red-cooked dishes where meats are slow-simmered as well as some Vietnamese and Malaysian recipes.
In the west it is traditionally used as a cheaper substitute for anise seeds in fruit compotes, jams and in baking although its wonderful flavour is now gaining favour in many savoury dishes, combining successfully with fish, poultry lamb and beef.
Native to China and Vietnam , today the star anise tree is mainly grown in China, and Japan although it is also cultivated in Laos, the Philippines, Indonesia and Jamaica.
Star anise has a powerful and liquorice-like aroma which is stronger than anise. Its flavour is reminiscent of a bitter aniseed albeit much more pungent and harsher.
While Chinese Star Anise is not itself toxic its near-identical similarity to Japanese star anise can lead to contamination in storage, resulting in cases of neurological problems in infants.