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Archive for the ‘Spice’ Category

Star Anise Versus Star Fruit

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

What do you mean these things are not the same?  You might think this is a laughable subject.  Clearly, star anise and star fruit are not the same thing.  Alas, a few months ago, I went to the grocery store in search of star anise, per my recipe, but I was looking in the produce department for star fruit.

I’m not sure how I was so convinced that star anise would be in the produce department as star fruit would be.  Thinking about it logically, anise seed would be in the spice aisle, but for some reason, I kept thinking star fruit, which I was first introduced to as a teenager and did not like.  While searching for star anise, I was exasperated that I could not find anything in the produce section.  As I eventually thought that I might be looking in the wrong place (I didn’t have cell service, so I couldn’t check my iPhone for what I should be looking for or substitutes)  I was equally exasperated when I couldn’t find anything in the spice aisle.

What was I doing wrong?  Well, note to self:  make sure you know what your ingredients are before you head to the supermarket.  So, allow me to explain the difference between these star shaped ingredients.

According to Larousse Gastronomique, star anise is the reddish-brown eight-pointed star shaped fruit of an evergreen shrub native to China, commonly used as a spice.  It is used in the West for making liqueurs and in pastry.  In Asian preparations, however, it is an ingredient of five-spice powder and used as a seasoning for meat.

Star fruit, or carambola, on the other hand, is a golden star shaped fruit native to the West Indies and Indonesia.  The flesh of this fruit is acidic, and has been described as a combination of apple, pear and citrus.

As I said, I have no reasonable explanation for how I confused these two ingredients.  So, I’m offering this post only as a cautionary tale:  make sure you know what your ingredients are.  Otherwise, you might end up wandering a South Florida Publix looking for an ingredient, while your increasingly worried family calls repeatedly without you answering.  For an explanation as to why I was looking for star anise:  stay tuned for a pear tart that received rave reviews at Thanksgiving.