Star anise is a popular spice that got its name by appearance. The fruit can be used as a whole or 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, once a secret for Europeans, spice. They use it in sweet and sour, flavorful 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 radiance 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
Toast 2 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns in a dry pan until they start releasing their aroma. It will take 2-3 minutes. Then mix the peppercorns with 5-6 star anise. Grind them together in a coffee/spice grinder.
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 with five-spice powder, it will elevate to the next level, giving it a powerful kick.
You’ll need 2 medium of chopped carrots. Put 1 Tbsp of butter in a pan and let it melt on medium heat. Then and throw in the carrots, mix well, and add 1 tsp of five-spice powder.
Now combine 180 g of water, 2 Tbsp of soy sauce, and 2 Tbsp of sugar. 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.