A star was truly born when the ancient cooks of Southeast China started incorporating this unusual dried fruit, harvested from an evergreen, into their savory dishes and teas. The hard, woody shell has a texture similar to a cinnamon stick, but the candied, fragrant flavor is licorice-like, thanks to a shared family tree with anise seed. (Star anise is stomach-soothing for the same reason.) Its natural sweetness is a no-brainer in cookies, but also a stellar counterpart to meat marinades, and a staple in biryani masala.
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