Pretty to look at, but what do you do with it?
That about sums up how most of us feel about star anise. And that’s why it’s mostly been relegated to the backwaters of spice cabinets in the U.S.
What most people don’t realize is that star anise actually is a deliciously potent spice that can do amazing things for your cooking, especially for meat.
But first, the basics. Star anise is the fruit — yes, fruit — of an evergreen tree native to southern China (where most of it still is produced).
When dried, that fruit resembles a 1-inch, rust-colored star, usually with six to eight points. Each point contains a small, shiny seed.