I love taking photos of star anise because it is so pretty with it’s petals. Star anise is a common spice used in both curries and Chinese stew. It gives the sweet smelling flavour which is perfect for both spicy and non-spicy dishes. Star anise, along with cinnamon sticks are the few rare spices suitable for use in Chinese stews. Star anise has very strong smell so always use sparingly. Sometimes, I only plucked off two or three petals and put them in my Chinese stews.
The trick is to just use a little bit to lend a hint of the fragrance and not to overpower the whole dish with its strong smell. Otherwise, people tend to be turned off from the dish. Normally, star anise pairs well with cinnamon stick or bark. Remove them from your cooking when you feel you are satisfied with the flavor.
In the Bible, mustard seed was used in the parable to explain how a tiny seed can grow into a huge tree, if given the right condition. However, I am not sure if the mustard mentioned is the sawi or what type of tree. Nevertheless, I am always fascinated with these tiny, black seeds used in Indian cooking. Indian cooking uses a lot of mustard seeds. However, I cannot discern the taste or smell of these black seeds eventhough I bite them a lot.
Mustard seed is usually to be ‘pop’ in a hot wok to bring out the flavours. Mustard seed always go hand in hand with fenugreek in fish curries.
This is the wonder spice that breastfeeding moms search. Note that large quantity of fenugreek is VERY dangerous for pregnant women and those who are trying to conceive because large quantities can cause miscarriages as it causes the womb to contract. In the same way, it causes the breast to produce more breast milk. I can vouch for the effectiveness of fenugreek in helping to increase breast milk. I used it to make soup, steep and drink as tea and even added some to my white rice when I was breastfeeding. However, do not take too much. A tiny teaspoon here and there is fine. Too much of it will make you smell like an Indian spice shop. *serious face* You can smell the fenugreek in your urine, sweat and just about everywhere.
Clove is another spice which Chinese use in their cooking. Clove, star anise and cinnamon with soya sauce makes great simmer for pork. However, like star anise, clove too has a very strong smell and is to be used sparingly too.
I read that clove, when powdered can ease toothache. I haven’t tried it before though. Clove is another ‘decorative spice’ which is often used for garnishing.
Cardamon looks like orange seeds. It also have some sort of citrusy smell and is perfect for bryani rice and other dishes which does not require pungent spices. It has a mild flavour.
Cardamon normally goes best with fennel and makes milder curries like those cooked by the Malays. However, I hate biting into them accidentally because it will then smell too overpowering.
I have a lot more spices like coriander, fennel, cummins, poppy seeds, tumeric and etc to share in future posts.