Star anise – the eight-pointed seed

Posted on 3 min read

Star anise is a popular spice that got its name by appearance. The fruit can either be used in its entirety or using only the seed. Obviously, the pod looks like a star, but not a classic five-pointed one. Actually, the spice has another common name in different countries: ‘badian’.

Star anise originally came from the Chinese and is translated as ‘eight horns’. That is the exact number of ends you will be able to count while holding a whole pod.

Star anise – the long journey from the Far East to Europe

Many Asian dishes utilize this spice that was once a secret for Europeans. They use it in sweet and sour, flavourful and highly aromatic sauces, broths and braises.

Star anise is a native to China and Vietnam. It gives the sweet, liquorice-y, and anise-y flavour to dishes, hence its wide popularity in these regions. But not only there. Thanks to the Age of Discovery, it got its way to Europe during the late 1500s. Soon after, star anise became a major ingredient in jams, syrups and puddings. It also found its way into alcohol liqueurs like pastis and anisette.

Today star anise is added practically anywhere a cook wishes to taste the fragrance of anise. It gives a uniquely sweet flavour to herbal teas and milk, to meats, poached fruits and confectionery.

Star anise buds radiate with their beauty and fragrance

Many people fall in love with star anise once they see it for the first time. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful spices out there. And so must be the recipes that utilize it.

The classic thing to try is Chinese five-spice powder. It showcases the power of common spices and encompasses all five tastes. The following recipe makes about 4 tbsp of the spice mix.

The secrets of five-spice-powder

  • 2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 5-6 star anise
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  1. Toast 2 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns in a dry pan until they start releasing their aroma. It will take 2-3 minutes.
  2. Then mix the peppercorns with 5-6 star anise. Grind them together in a coffee/spice grinder.
  3. Afterwards, add the remaining 3 spices to the mixture. Blend 1 tbsp of ground cinnamon, 1 tbsp of ground fennel seeds, and ½ tsp of ground cloves.

Store in an airtight container. That way, the seasoning stays longer fragrant.

It is quite a potent blend. Therefore always use this five-spice powder sparingly as it can easily overwhelm you. It works well in meat recipes. And vegetables take on a whole new life when seasoned with it.

Let the carrots shine

Try to cook easy glazed carrots, which is a great appetizer by itself. But five-spice powder will elevate them to the next level, giving the dish a powerful kick.

  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder
  • 180 g water
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  1. Put 1 tbsp of butter in a pan and let it melt on medium heat.
  2. Then throw in the carrots, mix well, and add 1 tsp of five-spice powder.
  3. Now combine 180 g of water, 2 tbsp of soy sauce and 2 tbsp of sugar.
  4. Pour the mixture into the pot, stir well, and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat, and cover the carrots with a lid. Let them simmer for about 10 minutes until fork-tender.

Finally, remove the lid, and inhale the aroma of the fragrant sweet carrots mixed with anise seed. They go so well together, just like you and carrots.

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