This spice, native to China and Vietnam, brings a licorice flavor to dishes and is a bit stronger than regular anise. It is used in traditional Chinese cooking, as well as Chinese medicine. Although it may seem unrelated to Christmas and the holidays, there are many traditional holiday recipes that debut this robust spice. Regardless of it's festive shape, I'm sure you didn't realize the taste of black licorice was so merry.
here are just a few:
pistachio anise wafers
Christopsomo - Christ's bread greece
bizcochitos new nexico
anise tuiles french-ish
teebroedchen - christmas tea biscuits germany
cranberry asian pear star anise cake
and did you know...
...star anise is the seed pod of an evergreen tree (Illicium Verum) grown in southwestern China and Japan.
...star anise is one of the spices in five spice powder.
...in traditional Chinese medicine, star anise is prescribed as a digestive aid, and to remedy rheumatism.
...Shikimic Acid, extracted from star anise, is one of the chief ingredients in the antiviral Tamiflu drug used to fight avian influenza.
...star anise can replace regular anise in western recipes.
...it is a 'secret ingredient' in many curry recipes.
thanks to about.com