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Monita is a recipe tester for Food52.
It's a spice; looks like a star and is also called a Chinese star
It also has a "unique" flavor profile. It's one ingredient in the Five Spice Blend. It's used for long simmered eastern soups such as pho.
pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.
It is indeed star shaped and typically you would use only one or two of the "points".
My answer was going to read simply "The most often mispronounced spice by professionals on TV (the accent belongs on the first syllable)." But I should add that its flavor is not unique but an interesting quirk of nature. Although unrelated botanically, liquorice, anise, star anise, and fennel all share a similar flavor profile due to the chemical anethole, common to all.
Star anise is such a helper. It can lift so many dishes. Anywhere that mushrooms or tomatoes are being simmerered, a star anise will help round out the flavour. Those dark sticky sauces that you eat with game or beef - a star anise belongs in there simmering away. I drop one into the milk/cream that I might be simmering to make a custard or ice-cream or rice pudding, alongside or instead of a vanilla pod. In the poaching syrup for fruits - looks so pretty in the syrup. Alcoholic beverages you might be mulling (wine, cider)? I've even taken to rinsing and drying used ones and dropping them into the sugar along with the vanilla pods in the hopes it gives my cakes a star anise fragrance. Goes very well with chocolate. Now that you know what it is, run out and buy some now and wonder what you've been doing with your life till now! Don't forget to fish it out of that tomato sauce before serving. It's a most unpleasant thing to get an unexpected mouthful of.
Excellent ideas all. One of my favorite ice creams is Star Anise.
You can find it significantly cheaper at a Mexican market or in the Mexican section of your local grocery store rather than in the regular spice aisle.
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