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Also Known as
Chakri Phool, chakri phul
The unusual, star-shaped fruit of a small oriental tree, star anise is picked before it ripens, dried, and sold as a spice.
Star anise, as the name suggests, is star-shaped. It is hard, about an inch high, with five to ten (usually eight) segments and a dark brown rust-like colour.
Due to the presence of a chemical compound called anethol, star anise has a liquorice like taste, similar to anise, but stronger.
How to Select
• Star anise is readily available in grocery stores and supermarkets.
• The stars are available whole, or ground to a red-brown powder.
• When purchasing star anise, look for whole pieces that aren't broken.
• If buying the powder, choose a reliable brand or buy from a known source, as it is prone to colouring and contamination by grinding together cheaper spices and even wood pieces.
• Star anise is often used to flavour slow-cooked dishes in Indian and Chinese cuisine too.
• Apart from being added to many Indian stews and curries, it is also added whole when cooking rice for pulaos and biryanis. However, it is removed and discarded from the cooked rice dish before serving.
• It is one of the spices in the famous five-spice powder commonly used in Chinese cooking.
• Star anise is mostly added in Chinese red cooking, where the ingredients are simmered for a lengthy period in dark soy sauce.
• Chinese stocks and soups very often contain the spice.
• Some stir-fries also call for the use of ground star anise.
• In the West, star anise is added in fruit compotes and jams, and in the manufacture of anise-flavoured liqueurs, the best known being anisette.
• It is also used in confectionery, to impart a mild sweetness and spicy flavour.
How to Store
• Store star anise in a sealed container in a cool, dark place.
• Properly stored, star anise will last for several months.
• Discard once the flavour and aroma fade.
• In traditional Chinese medicine, star anise is prescribed as a digestive aid and to help cure colic in babies.