Star Anise is a gorgeous spice, shaped, like the name would suggest, like a lovely five- to ten-pointed star (most commonly eight-pointed). It is grown in Vietnam and is a popular spice in Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisine.
Star Anise and Aniseed are two distinct spices, though they have a similar flavor of anise and licorice. Like bay leaves and cinnamon sticks, whole star anise pods are best used by adding it to a dish while cooking and then removing it before serving. Alternatively, whole star anise can be freshly ground. However, this unlocks the potent flavor and only a small amount of ground spice is needed to strongly flavor an entire dish.
Chinese Star Anise has slowly made its way into western cuisine as a less expensive substitute for aniseed. It is a familiar flavor in french vin chaud (hot wine), and liquors including sambuca and absinthe. It is also used in non-alcoholic drinks like masala chai. Indian dishes like biryani and garam masala feature star anise- as do Vietnamese Phở noodle soups. It is also popular in seasonal baked goods, cakes, and cookies.
Stored in an airtight container, a dried anise star will keep for a year or more.
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