I know I’ve lured you in. If the words Star and Anise together haven’t pulled you into a food blog, I don’t know what will!
Used quite a bit in warming winter recipes, particularly desserts, breads, and mulling spices, star anise is under-utilized in the spice cabinet in my opinion. And one star goes a long way! I buy mine at Penzey’s Spices and the aroma is really like no other aromatic woody spice. It’s nothing like cinnamon or allspice and not like cloves or nutmeg either. I cannot describe it, but you must have some. Spices last a long time in your cabinet so invest in a small jar or bag and it should keep for about a year. I’ve listed a few recipes at the end of this post in case you’re curious how to use them.
My friend Priti who is known for her cooking uses star anise in a lot of her curries, which hail from where her Indian family grew up–in East Africa. I watched her make a shrimp curry one day and I just had to re-create it. I think the star anise is what really sets this shrimp curry apart from others, as does a good quality fresh garam masala blend. If you can make your own blend, that would be best. But if you want to buy one, your best bet is to purchase one in a small bag or box from an Indian grocery store. Second best would be from a spice store like Penzey’s or Savory Spice Shop. Make sure any ground spice you buy in general hasn’t been exposed to light or heat (so no big clear plastic bulk containers!) and most importantly, the fragrance of garam masala in particularly should be strong, beautiful, aromatic and unexplainable. Ok ok I guess I should try to explain the aroma….earthy, sweet, possibly floral, with a background of tickling heat.
Here’s this must-have recipe. Thanks to Priti for inspiring me to re-create it!!
- 3-4 tablespoons canola or safflower oil
- 2 whole cloves
- 3 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 3 one-inch sized pieces of cinnamon stick
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 cup finely chopped white onion
- 1 tablespoon ginger/garlic paste (see note below)
- 2 finely chopped juicy ripe tomatoes
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon chili powder, preferably hot Indian like Reshampatti
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon garam masala, Punjabi style
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup water
- 1 pound small-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a 10-12 inch wide sauté pan or a large pot. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add all the whole spices (cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise). The spices should sizzle but not darken or burn. Stir for a few seconds on low heat. The oil will be very fragrant.
- Scoop in the onion and sauté for about 3-5 minutes, lowering heat as necessary to avoid significant browning. Stir in the ginger/garlic paste and cook at medium-low heat for about 5 minutes.
- Mix in the tomatoes and any juices. Stir in the turmeric, chili powder, coriander, garam masala, and salt.
- Cover and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover, add ½ cup water and cover again. Cook for a minute or so then add the shrimp. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes at a low simmer, stirring up the shrimp several times. Uncover at the end to evaporate a little of the liquid. The final dish should be saucy but not soupy and will thicken a bit further upon standing.
Try these recipes starring Star Anise 😉
- Arugula, Orange and Faux Fennel Salad with Star Anise Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Poached Apricots in Star Anise Syrup
- Marinated Olives with Herbs and Star Anise
- Steamy Kitchen’s Star Anise Recipes