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Lifestyle

Ask a cook: Are anise and star anise the same thing?

Ask a cook: Are anise and star anise the same thing?

Q: What’s the difference between anise and star anise? And how do you pronounce it – a-NIECE or ANN-is?

A: The licorice-like flavor anise, or anise seed, has been popular since ancient times. It turns up in drinks, from Greek ouzo to French pastis,and in breads and pastries from Europe through the Mediterranean, and all the way to India. The flavor comes from a volatile oil in the seed, called anethol.

Star anise, found almost exclusively in Asia, comes from a different plant, a relative of the magnolia tree, but it also has anethol. It’s a dried fruit with a distinctive star shape that usually has eight points, or carpels. The flavor is very similar, but a little more bitter. It’s one of the ingredients in Chinese five-spice powder.

Different people pronounce it different ways, but ANN-ihs is the most common for both forms.

Email questions about cooking and food to Kathleen Purvis at kpurvis@charlotteobserver.com.

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