Star anise, also known as bājiǎo, is a spice widely used in Chinese cuisine. It has a unique flavor profile, with a strong licorice taste and hints of sweetness and warmth. Learn more about what star anise is and how you can incorporate it into your cooking to add an exotic and delicious twist to your dishes.
In addition to being a key ingredient in Five Spice Powder, star anise can also be used in a variety of savory and sweet dishes. Its distinct flavor and aroma make it a popular choice for adding depth to stews, soups, and marinades, while its sweetness makes it a great addition to desserts like cakes and cookies. So, why not try adding some star anise to your next recipe and see how it transforms your dish into something truly special?
What is star anise? Exactly how does it taste?
Star anise comes from the fruit pods of a tiny evergreen tree
native to southern China and Southeast Asia. Each pod contains six to ten pointed seeds.
We pick the green fruit before it reaches full ripeness, then dry it to make it more durable. The assembled parts look like delicate wooden blossoms.
Star anise and common anise (or aniseed) share a name and certain flavor characteristics, but they are not related spices.
There is a difference between Chinese star anise and the similarly scented but poisonous Japanese kind.
This component smells and tastes strongly of licorice; it is slightly bitter and sweet.
How is Star Anise used?
Licorice has a sweet connotation in the Western world. If you’re unfamiliar with Asian cuisine, you might be shocked to learn that star anise is commonly used in savory recipes.
It’s crucial to Five Spice Powder’s layered flavor. Check out our Five Spice Powder article if you’re interested in learning more about this spice blend.
Its bittersweet flavor and scent pair wonderfully with fatty meats like goose, hog, and duck.
Beef and chicken that have been cooked low and slow can benefit from this technique, as evidenced by the tenderness of our Chinese braised oxtails and soy sauce chicken.
Star anise’s aromatic qualities are also appreciated in noodle dishes like traditional Vietnamese Pho, Lanzhou Beef Noodle Soup, and Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup. Interestingly, it’s also used to flavor marbled tea eggs, a common cheap delicacy in China.
In contrast, its strong scent has the potential to overwhelm other flavors in a dish. Avoid overusing it. When used excessively, the flavor of the food might become unpleasant and medicinal.
Purchase and Storage
This ingredient is most commonly available in Asian markets, but can be obtained in some Western grocery stores if purchased in its full, star-shaped pod form.
It can also be purchased through a variety of online stores, including Amazon, The Spice House, and many others.
At the time of writing, you can also buy it at yamibuy.com, justasianfood.com, and mimodian.com, all of which are Chinese online grocery merchants.
Depending on your preferred vendor, prices might range from $0.50 to over $2.00 per ounce.
If an intense licorice scent wafts out of the package, you know it is of good quality and just opened.
Protect the spice from light, heat, and moisture by storing it in an airtight container.
When stored correctly, whole pods have two to three years of shelf life. One year is when the ground version starts to lose its flavor.
Alternatives to Star Anise
If you can’t find star anise, Five Spice Powder will usually have it as one of its ingredients.
Other mild, licorice-like flavors that can stand in as alternatives include fennel seed and common anise (aniseed). As a result of their diminished potency, we advise using roughly double the weight specified in the recipe.
It’s important to remember that some spices are more challenging to remove from a finished meal, so it’s preferable to wrap them in cheesecloth before using them. The end result will have a slightly unique taste.
Even while they don’t have the same distinctive licorice flavor, cloves and allspice have a similar bittersweet quality.