star anise

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Also Known as
Chakri Phool, chakri phul

Star anise comes by its name honestly, with its star shape and a licorice taste similar to regular anise, only stronger. It is about one inch high with eight segments and a dark brown rust color. Like regular anise, star anise gets its distinctive licorice taste from a chemical compound called anethol. Star anise is the unusual fruit of a small oriental tree. It is, as the name suggests, star shaped, radiating between five and ten pointed boat-shaped sections, about eight on average. Tough skinned and rust coloured, they measure up to 3cm (1-1/4") long. The fruit is picked before it can ripen, and dried.

How to Select
Star anise is available in packages in supermarkets. When purchasing star anise, look for whole pieces that aren't broken. The stars are available whole, or ground to a red-brown powder.

Culinary Uses
· Star anise plays a key role in the slow cooked dishes that characterize Eastern Chinese cuisine. Its licorice flavor enhances red cooked dishes, as well as eggs simmered in black tea.
· Star anise is one of the spices in five-spice powder. It is an ingredient of the mixture known as "Chinese Five Spices".
· It is also used in confectionery, where sweeteners must be added; it blends well and imparts the needed sweet flavour.
· In Chinese red cooking, where the ingredients are simmered for a lengthy period in dark soy sauce, star anise is nearly always added.
· Chinese stocks and soups very often contain the spice. It flavours marbled eggs, a decorative Chinese hors d'oeuvre or snack.
· 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 the secret ingredient in many Indian stews and curries.
· In slow cooked or simmered dishes, star anise is usually added whole (not broken into pieces) and discarded before serving. Occasionally, you may find stir-fry recipes calling for ground star anise.

How to Store
At home, store star anise in a sealed container in a cool dark place. Properly stored, star anise will last for several months. Discard once the flavor fades.

Health Benefits
· In traditional Chinese medicine, star anise is prescribed as a digestive aid and to help cure colic in babies.
· More recently, Shikimic Acid, extracted from star anise, is one of the chief ingredients in the antiviral Tamiflu drug used to fight avian influenza.

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