Star anise is native to Southern China and Vietnam and is also today grown in Japan. It is one of only a handful of spices commonly used in Chinese cookery. It is used in the East as anise is used in the West, to flavour sweet and savoury dishes. It is a key ingredient in Chinese Five Spice Powder.
As its name suggests, star anise is star shaped with between five and ten radiating sections. It is available whole, broken or ground. Its aroma and taste are like stronger, more pungent and slightly bitter versions of anise.
In Eastern medicine, star anise is used to treat colic and rheumatism. It is used as a flavouring in cough medicines and can be chewed whole to freshen the breath.