Star anise is undisputedly the prettiest spice of them all. Native to China and Vietnam, star anise is the fruit of an evergreen magnolia tree. The fruits are in the shape of an eight-pointed star, and each point holds a shiny brown seed. Star anise has a sweet, licoricey taste, and is used to flavour several liqueurs such as Sambuca, Galliano and pastis. It is indispensable to Chinese cuisine, which uses it in soups, marinades and five-spice powder, and it is used widely in other parts of Asia as well. Star anise is still under-used in the west, but we encourage you to try working it into your cooking. A little ground star anise works well in desserts like chocolate cakes, or sprinkled on baked fruit. We love adding five-spice powder to pan-fried leeks and asparagus. We also use star anise in our home-made chai.
We sell star anise in three forms: whole, ground, and hand-selected stars. The hand-selected stars are the most expensive because of the labour involved in sorting and choosing only perfect or near-perfect stars. This star anise is ideal for use in crafting or as a garnish. The "whole" star anise is a mixture of whole and broken pieces meant for simmering or grinding and using in your cooking. This grade always includes at least a few whole stars in case you're worried about appearances. Ground star anise is available for those who prefer not to have to grind it themselves, though ground star anise loses its flavour quickly. As always, we recommend buying whole and grinding fresh.