Asian Beef with Chinese Star Anise


This rich, steamy and aromatic stew is perfect for cool autumn and winter evenings. A main spice is Chinese star anise. The star-shaped fruits resemble black licorice in flavour and are harvested just before ripening.


They grow native in northeast Vietnam and southwest China. Star anise is also used in the production of Sambuca and many types of absinthe. It is widely used in Chinese cuisine. Anything but your mom’s beef stew. These exotic flavors will feast your senses.

Asian Beef with Chinese Star Anise
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 lemongrass stalks, chopped (lower third only)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • 6 carrots, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 4 star anise pods
  • 1 whole lemongrass stalk, cut into 3-inch lengths and smashed
  • 1 cup torn basil leaves
  • 1 fresh red chile, thinly sliced for garnish
  1. In a food processor, combine the first seven ingredients. Pulse until mixed. In a large bowl, coat the beef with the marinade. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook until lightly browned. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil to the pot along with the onion, garlic, ginger and crushed red pepper. Add a tablespoon of water then cover and cook the stew over low heat until the aromatics are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook over medium heat, stirring until glossy, about 1 minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
  4. Return the beef to the pot. Add the carrots, star anise and lemongrass. Simmer over low heat for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Transfer the beef to a bowl. Boil the sauce on high heat until reduced to 4 cups, about 5 minutes. Discard the star anise and lemongrass. Return the beef to the pot. Serve over wide rice noodles. Garnish with basil and red chile.
  5. Serve over a bed of hot rice noodles.

Pair this with a bottle of Tobin James Ballistic Zinfandel. This jammy red produces layers and layers of juice. A firm structure with a nice grip on the finish.

Movie night suggestion: Written and beautifully directed by Wong Kar Wai, 2046 (2004) sizzles with unbridled romance from beginning to end. The story is about a writer who thought he wrote about the future but it was really the past. In his novel, an enigmatic train left for the year 2046 every once in a while. Everyone who went there had the same intention…to recapture lost memories. It was said that in 2046, nothing ever changed. Nobody knew for sure if it was true, because nobody who went there had ever come back – except for one.

Film Notes: The title of this film is supposed to be said as, “Two Oh Four SIx.”

Each character speaks their own language. Mr. Chow speaks Cantonese, Bai Ling speaks Mandarin, and Tak speaks Japanese even when talking to each other.

The wrapping paper on the gift Mr. Chow gives to Bai Ling is very faintly imprinted with the words “Dragon Seed.” The Dragon Seed Co., Ltd. is a chain of Hong Kong department stores that was first incorporated in 1948.

While 2046 was being filmed, a photographer from Sudden Weekly, a Hong Kong tabloid, bribed his way onto the set. After his photos of the interior of the Oriental Hotel were published, Wong Kar Wai ordered the set to be rebuilt. The sneaky photographer was subsequently sentenced to three months in jail for corruption.