True star anise grows as an evergreen tree in Southern and Western Guangxi (China) as well as Northern Vietnam and can reach a proud height of up to 20 meters. These exceptional trees can bear the small star-shaped fruit for up to 100 years.
Arnaud feels very close to the country of Vietnam and sources a good portion of his raw spices from various areas of the country. He emphasizes a long-standing relationship with small farmers and family businesses whose cultivation and harvesting respect the country’s ecosystems. Star anise in its natural state has a diameter of 3 to 4cm, is then gently dried in a dehydrator and then individually hand-picked.
A specific warm spice, sweet, anise-like and slightly peppery.
Star anise is a spice that has been used in Chinese cuisine for hundreds of years. It’s great for use in marinades, sauces and stocks, e.g. in fish soups or any sauce with coconut milk. Simply simmer the star anise for 10-20 minutes.
Brewed as a tea, it soothes stomach aches, is carminative, adds digestion and will definitely help after your next butcher plate. Those who like to prepare their own jams and compotes will definitely fall in love with this nifty little spice: apricot, pear, plum, apple, strawberry and black currant all get along wonderfully with star anise. Or swap out vanilla for star anise in pannacotta for a special sweet treat.
When it comes to alcohol, you’ve almost certainly met star anise in the shape of pastis or ricard. But there’s more that star anise can do – just think of Rhum Arrangé, a preparation of rum which is particularly popular on the island of Reunion, in the Caribbean and in Madagascar. Make your own version by getting yourself a bottle of high quality rum, taking a small sip directly from the bottle, chucking in 1-2 star anise and letting the whole thing macerate in the dark for 1-2 months (or even years). If you’re feeling particularly inspired, try adding dried mango, ginger, keffir leaves, dried coconut or cinnamon sticks.
Please note: it’s important that you pour yourself a small glass every two weeks or so to check on flavour development.