Description: Indigenous to Southern China and North Vietnam, star anise is the dried, star-shaped fruit of an Asian evergreen tree. The aroma is much like that of cloves, and the flavor is licorice-like and pungent. The dark brown fruit has eight canoe-shaped spokes and within each is a shiny seed. In slow-cooked dishes, star anise is usually added whole and discarded before serving.
You Might Like to Know: A related species is the poisonous Japanese star anise, (known as the “mad herb” in China) which lacks an anise smell and tastes similar to turpentine.
Medicinal Uses: In traditional Chinese medicine, star anise is used as a digestive aid and to help cure colic in babies. Shikimic acid, extracted from star anise, is one of the chief ingredients in the antiviral Tamiflu drug used to fight avian influenza.