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Oct 18, 2010 12:37 PM

mystery spice for Chinese beef stew?

Hi - just had a homecooked lunch with my parents: beef stew...fried rice...cabbage soup with mushrooms & sardines. For the beef stew my stepmom used a spice that is called "eight angles" in Chinese (after the shape of the seed pod -- see photo, with basil leaf for scale). They couldn't tell me the English name...anyone know? Thanks.

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      1. re: bushwickgirl

        Relatively rare to see them with their stalks still attached.

        1. re: wattacetti

          True, don't think I've actually ever...

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            I guess it depends on where you buy it. I've never bought whole star anise that didn't have at least some stems.

      2. re: amokscience

        Star anise is one of the ingredients in 5-spice powder, by the way, so it's used in lots of Chinese dishes without being directly mentioned..

        1. re: greygarious

          Grind them up in a mortar & pestle, and incorporate it into your chocolate cake. You'll be amazed at the results. Gives your chocolate a totally new deepr and more complex aroma and a richer flavor.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Wow, must try. How much to an average cake recipe?

            1. re: buttertart

              I use about 1/2 teaspoon of ground star anise for each 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder that you use in your cake.

                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  Just tried. Good flavor, just a hint of 'something' that'll leave you wondering.

                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                      Yum! I love the idea of adding it to a chocolate cake.... do you like it better than adding coffee?

                    2. re: amokscience

                      Glad you liked it and you described it better than I did "just a hint of 'something' that'll leave you wondering"!

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Thank you for suggesting it. Made a drive-by thread a lot more rewarding. There are going to be a lot of impressed people at work this week :)

                        1. re: amokscience


                          May I ask what dessert or pastry you made? Was it a chocolate cake, or something else? Always looking for new ideas ...

                          I've added star anise to all sorts of things (with varying levels of success), incl. the aforementioned chocolate cake, as well as brownies, tiramisu, coffee cake, banana cake, meringue cookies, and even ganache.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Used it with brownies. I added either a half or full teaspoon of freshly ground star anise to a reduced (half?) batch. They disappeared early at work and I've had some positive queries about what's different.

                            Going to make chocolate ice cream with star anise later.

                            1. re: amokscience

                              A word to the wise about using star anise for ice cream.

                              It's better to steep the whole cloves in the milk / custard mixture and then remove when making ice cream. I've found ground star anise in ice cream doesn't really provide much flavor -- something about the cold doesn't really bring out its flavor. Of course, your results may vary. Good luck and enjoy.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                ipse is suffering identity crisis with all the changing avatars! ;-).

                                what does this one mean?

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  Eh, just something that appeared when I dropped my ink pen on a white piece of paper ...

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      That's what some people say about my cooking ... esp. my Garbage Can Carrot Cake.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I am definitely going to try this. Thanks, sir!

                2. re: ipsedixit

                  Or you can add star anise to a white cake and pass it off as root beer cake. VERY passable flavor!

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    really? I'm totally trying this. How much do I add?

                    1. re: funniduck

                      Depends on how many cake layers you're making, but for two 9" layers I'd start off with a teaspoon of ground and taste the batter. You can always add more ut it's darn difficult to take out.

                    2. re: Caroline1

                      I'm in, too! Do you add ground or steep the whole anise in a liquid before adding?

                      1. re: MartiniGenie

                        Just use the ground star anise. Once you get into steeping that pushes you into liquid balance. The ground is much easier!

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          Will do, thanks. What kind of frosting would you do for this cake? 7 minute?

                3. Exactly what everyone said. It is called Star Anise. In Chinese, eight corners (well, that is a partial name anyway).

                  1. Thanks. FYI, the leftovers were reincarnated as beef noodle soup with fish cake, poached egg, and shiitake...

                    1 Reply
                    1. Very nice. Beef stew is one of my fav dishes, just for the reason of making noodles later. Do you have an idea of the recipe?

                      1. Just out of curiosity, did your stepmom refer to the star anise as 'bot guok' or 'pak kok?' The former being in Cantonese, the latter is Mandarin. Or was it referred to in a dialect from a particular locality?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ChiliDude

                          Pak Kok must be another dialect. In Mandarin, star anise is 八角 - Ba1 Jiao3.