八角: Known as eight-horns in Chinese, the star anise is a delicately beautiful spice. Used in Asian cuisines- including Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Vietmanese- it is also used for medicinal purposes. In fact, you might even be surprised to hear that it’s an important ingredient in Tamiflu! And nowadays, with the swine flu and all, stocks of star anise are running low.
My mother uses star anise (yep, that’s also the plural form) when making 滷蛋 (“lu dan”) or braised eggs. Unlike tea leaf eggs, the egg shells are peeled right after the egg is boiled so that the whole egg soaks up all of the flavors in the soy sauce mixture. The result is an egg with a radiant brown color, as if its spent too much time under the sun.
Lu dan goes quite well with rice or in a broth with noodles. My mom says that some Taiwanese have it with beer (I know, what the heck?) Or of course, you can eat it as is.
The measurements in the following recipes are all “eyeballed.” However, it’s what we use for a dozen and a half eggs.
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 3-4 sugar cubes (if not, use 3 tbps of regular sugar)
- 2 star anise
- Potfull of water
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 18 eggs
- Fill a large pot with water and salt so that all of the eggs are fully submerged. Proceed to boil the eggs as you would with hard boiled eggs. Cover the pot.
- When the eggs are finished, usually around 20-30 minutes, remove them and gently peel the shells of the eggs
- Refill the pot with water, but this time a bit below half way. Place the now peeled eggs into the pot and add the star anise as well as the soy sauce.
- When the mixture begins to boil, add the sugar and turn it on low heat.
- Let it braise until the egg turns brown (it’ll take about 30 minutes). The longer you let it braise, the more the flavor will soak in. You want it to soak all the way into the yolk.