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Star Anise Shines in the Cupboard, Masala Chai Tea

I have always loved star anise but my kids don't like the strong aroma. I admit, it takes some getting used to or unless you are exposed to them from an early age. Initially, I was also a bit turned off but after putting some twists to some recipes, turns out it adds some layer to the dishes and if you portion it out or use just one or two of them in the cooking, it won't overpower the rest of the flavors and aromas.

So, anyway, here's one taken from a guest writer from Ezinearticles.


By Chris Rawstern

Star anise is little used outside of its native Southern China and Vietnam. It has spread to wherever these cultures have gone, being taken along both to use and where possible, to grow. The shape of star anise is that of an irregular eight and sometimes up to twelve pointed star. In Chinese, the name means eight points. It is a very pretty and decorative spice, often used in crafts or floated in tea. The stars are the fruits and each point of the star is a pod holding one very shiny oval seed. The color of the pods is a deep rusty brown, and the shiny seeds a lighter caramel color. The brittle seeds are less aromatic than the fruit.

Star anise is the fruit of a small evergreen tree, Illicium verum. The tree grows to a height of about 26 feet, with shiny leaves and small yellow, multi-petaled flowers. The flowers are followed by fruits in the sixth year. The tree can continue to bear fruit for 100 years. The fruits are picked while still unripe and then sun dried. Its flavor is anise like, though much more potent and with a heavier licorice flavor component than common anise seed, and with a distinctly sweet note. If using as a substitution for anise seed in a recipe, it is best to cut down the amount by a half to two thirds.

Star anise is a key ingredient in Chinese Five Spice Powder, along with cinnamon or cassia; other possible mixtures may include Szechuan peppercorns, black peppercorns, cloves, fennel, anise seed or ginger. This is the recipe I use to make my own blend.

Five Spice Powder

1 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

8 inches of stick cinnamon or cassia

2 tablespoons fennel seed

10 whole star anise

Place all ingredients into a dry skillet over medium high heat and dry roast until fragrant. This releases the oils, making a more aromatic mixture. Put spices together into a small blender used only for spices and grind into a powder. Store in a cool place, in an air tight container.

Some suggestions for using Five Spice Powder are as a spice rub for fatty meats such as steaks, skirt steak, pork or duck. It can be mixed into a marinade. The flavors can be very strong, so start with a little and see how it goes with your taste. Add it to a stir fry, or to rice or anywhere you would like a real punch of flavor. It may be mixed with salt as a seasoning to be added at table. It can also be used as a spiced tea mixture, similar to Chai. I have made a recipe for a wonderful Masala Chai Tea, with a few other spices.

Masala Chai

4 whole cloves

2 whole cardamom pods

1 two inch piece true cinnamon stick

1 cup water

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons dried lemongrass

1 whole star anise

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons black tea

In a mortar, crush the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Transfer crushed spices to a small saucepan, add the water, ginger, pepper, lemongrass and star anise and bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat, cover and steep for 5 minutes. Add milk to pan and bring to boil. Remove from heat and add the black tea leaves. Cover and steep for 3 minutes. Stir, then strain into a warmed teapot. Sweeten as desired.

Star Anise was first introduced to Europe in the seventeenth century, where it was mainly used in baked goods and jams. It is also a flavoring used in liqueurs such as anisette and Pernod. It is often used in pickling, generally using the broken points. Whole fruits are best ground in a mortar or an electric spice grinder. The Chinese use the spice in poultry and pork dishes. The Vietnamese use it in their beef soup. It goes well with braised fish or scallops and clear soups. It is an excellent flavoring for pumpkin or leeks. In Chinese traditional medicine, star anise is used as a tea for a digestive aid, and also for colic in babies.

If this is a new and unknown spice for you, find some and try it out. Making your own Five Spice Powder is a rewarding experience. Any time whole spices are used, the outcome is far superior to a pre mixed store blend. Find out for yourself.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking and help pass along my love and joy of food. I would love to hear from you! Join my "e-family" and share recipes, stories and good times in the kitchen. Visit my Web site or my Blog at or join me on Facebook. Let me know, and I will send you a copy of my monthly news letter full of recipes the latest tips.

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