Star anise is the dried, star shaped fruit of Illicium verum. It is dark-brown in color with eight segments. It has a sweetish licorice taste. The star-shaped fruits are picked just before ripening and dried before use. They contain the same essential oil as the botanically unrelated Spanish anise seed, which gives the two a nearly identical flavor - strong, sweet, and licoricey. Star anise is widely used in Indian cuisine where it is a major component of garam masala spice mix. It is used in biryani and masala chai all over the Indian subcontinent. Star anise enhances the flavor of meat. Apart from its use in sweetmeats and confectionery, it combines especially well with meat and poultry. A single pod of star anise transforms the flavor of any tomato-based sauce or stew; and with its warm, spicy undertone, elevates the dish to a whole new level.
- Anise seed oil obtained from extraction of the seeds is found application in many traditional medicines as stomachic, anti-septic, anti-spasmodic, carminative, digestive, expectorant, stimulant and tonic.
- Star anise, in its natural form, can help the body’s immune system fight off many strains of flu, as well as tackle many other health challenges.
Star Anise is indigenous to South Eastern China. Commercial production is limited to China and Vietnam. In India, it is produced to a small extent in Arunachal Pradesh.