[Flavor Friday] Star Anise
Updated: Mar 2
What’s Star Anise (八角)?
Star anise (Illicium verum) is the fruit of an evergreen tree that is commonly grown in Southwest China and Vietnam. As the name suggests, it is star-shaped and has eight-pointed boat-shaped segments. Therefore, its name in Chinese is called Ba-Jiao (八角), which means eight corners. Star anise oil is a highly fragrant oil that is commonly produced by a process of steam extraction. The star anise oil is commonly used in cooking, soaps, toothpaste, perfumes, and skin creams. It is one of the ingredients in the five-spice powder, a commonly used spice in Chinese cuisine, which is usually made up of fennel, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, cloves, and star anise.
Star anise originated in southern China but has been used as a spice and medicine for over 3,000 years. Star anise was first introduced to Europe sometime in the 15th to 17th century through an English sailor. During then, it was mainly used in baked goods, jams, and liquor. It is most known for the natural relief for digestion when consumed.
What does it taste like?
Star anise has a very strong and distinct flavor that is sweet and warm with a strong aroma. The flavor is similar to fennel seed, clove. It is typically used in combination with meat, garlic, pepper, Sichuan pepper, scallions, citrus, and onions.
Commonly Used Cases
Star anise is usually packaged dry and in the form of roasted fruit. Star Anise is commonly used in Chinese, Malay, and Vietnamese cuisines, and especially in savory dishes. In cooking, people usually put it into hot water (broth/stew/sauces) because it enhances the flavor of meat and/or broth. We often see it being added to dishes such as beef stew, marinated meat, and Pho.
Pho, beef noodles, various braised dishes, five-spice chicken/beef, sauces