A star-shaped, dark brown pod that contains a pea-size seed in each of its eight segments. Native to China, star anise comes from a small evergreen tree. It's flavor is slightly more bitter than that of regular anise seed. Asian cooks use star anise to give a licorice flavor to savory dishes, particularly those with pork and poultry. It's available whole or ground and is an ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder. Use it sparingly--a little goes a long way.
Season: available year-round
Matches well with: duck, eggs, fish, leeks, pastry, pears, pork, poultry, pumpkin, shrimp
Substitutions: anise seed + pinch of allspice (weaker flavor; 1 crushed star anise = 1/2 teaspoon crushed anise seed) OR Chinese five-spice powder (contains star anise and other spices) OR anise extract (use just a few drops)