A star-shaped, dark red-brown pod containing shiny oval seeds. It is a spice used in Chinese (a main ingredient in five-spice powder) and Indian cooking, delivering a deep and earthy aniseed or liquorice flavour. Primarily used in rich meat dishes (such as pork belly, duck and mutton) and curries, the star anise pod (like cardamom pods and cinnamon quills) deliver an aromatic flavour but is too pungent to be eaten - leave it aside when serving the dish. The leaves are aromatic, and visitors to the Chinese emperors over the centuries would often chew them to freshen their breath before being presented. Star anise is also used in desserts, such as poached quince, and may be ground into shortbread.