Star Anise is a medium-sized evergreen tree native to northeast Vietnam and southwest China. A spice commonly called star anise, staranise, star anise seed, this spice closely resembles anise in flavor and is obtained from the star-shaped pericarps of the fruit of illicium verum which are harvested just before ripening. Star anise oil is highly fragrant and used in cooking, perfumery, soaps, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and skin creams. About 90% of the world’s star anise crop is used for extraction of shikimic acid, a chemical intermediate.
Star anise contains anethole, the same compound that gives the unrelated anise its flavor. Recently, star anise has come into use in the West as a less expensive substitute for anise in baking, as well as in liquor production. Star anise enhances the flavour of meat.
It is used as a spice in preparation of biryani and masala chai all over the Indian subcontinent. It is widely used in Chinese cuisine, and in Malay and Indonesian cuisines. It is widely grown for commercial use in China, India, and most other countries in Asia. Star anise is an ingredient of the traditional five-spice powder of Chinese cooking.
It is also used in the French recipe of mulled wine, called vin chaud (hot wine). If allowed to steep in coffee, it deepens and enriches the flavor. The pods can be used in this manner multiple times by the pot-full or cup, as the ease of extraction of the taste components increases with the permeation of hot water.