Star anise is a liquorice-flavoured, star-shaped fruit grown in China, Vietnam and Japan that is picked before ripening, then dried as a spice. The flavour has a slightly bitter quality and is more potent than the regular anise seed more often used in the West.
Boil star anise whole when using in most broths and soups. The Gourmet website recommends using two whole star anise pods in French onion soup to add a subtle sweetness. The O Chef website suggests using whole star anise and cinnamon sticks to flavour a sweet, oriental beef stew.
Crush or grind star anise using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to create a fine powder to season dishes such as roasted potatoes or vegetables. Since star anise isn't a widely used spice in the United States, it can add an unexpected hint of sweetness to everyday dishes.
Use freshly ground or packaged star anise, or Chinese five-spice seasoning (a premixed seasoning which uses star anise as its primary ingredient) to flavour Asian and Asian-inspired cuisine. The O Chef website recommends adding a whole ground star anise to beef and mangetout stir-fry.
Only a small amount of ground star anise is required for most recipes, since the spice is very potent.
Star anise has natural stimulant and diuretic properties, so don't consume too much at once.