Star anise comes from Illicium verum, a type of evergreen tree native to certain parts of Vietnam and China. The tree produces a fruit known as star anise that is used as a spice to add flavor to a variety of dishes. The fruit is picked before ripening and then dried in the sun to allow it to harden. It is characterized by its distinct star shape, reddish-orange color and strong aroma.
The star anise taste is often described as sweet and licorice-like. It’s considered a key ingredient in five-spice powder, a spice mixture used in Chinese cuisine that also includes cloves, Chinese cinnamon, fennel seeds and Sichuan pepper, and is also sometimes added to other spice mixes like garam masala. The oil of the fruit is also commonly found in mouthwash, perfume, toothpaste and cosmetics.
Frequently used in Chinese cooking, chicken, fish and pork. Also used decoratively and in craft cocktails.