Star Anise, whole
Star Anise, Illicium verum is a medium-sized evergreen tree related to the magnolia, native to northeast Vietnam and southwest China. The spice closely resembles anise in flavour, and is made from the star-shaped pericarps of the fruit of Illicium verum which are harvested just before ripening. The star anise pod, which is shaped like a star (hence its name), has an average of eight points, each containing a single pea-sized seed. Both the seeds and the pod are used in cooking and contain the sweet, potent anise flavour.
Star anise has a very strong, distinct flavour that is warm, sweet, and spicy, similar to licorice, fennel seed, clove, and anise seed. Although the flavour of star anise is generally thought of as sweet, it is commonly used in savoury dishes; it pairs well with citrus, onions, poultry, beef, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger and should be used in small quantities.