Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Star anise

If you read the Flavor Trends post on December 18, then you will have noticed that Asian five-spice powder is being predicted as one of the trendy flavors for 2009. A key spice in five-spice powder is star anise, which are the seeds of a Chinese evergreen tree. The seeds are housed in a star-shaped seed case, hence the name.

Star anise and five-spice are used a lot in Asian and Indian cooking, but I am more intrigued by nonAsian uses of the spice. For example, I have a friend from the Netherlands who uses star anise in tomato sauce. It was a revelation to me. The flavor that the star anise adds to the sauce is out of this world.

You can buy star anise at Asian or Indian groceries, or online at Penzey's Spices or Mountain Rose Herbs.

And to experiment with the taste of star anise, I would throw a pod into any tomato sauce-y thing, into rice as it's cooking, into a coconut-milk-based curry, into beans as they cook, into any recipe that calls for tarragon, fennel or anise (but not measure for measure, because star anise is quite strong).

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