Thursday, 21 September 2017


“Spices, of course, are essential…” - Marcus Samuelsson 

Five-spice powder is a spice mixture of five (or more) spices used primarily in Chinese cuisine or Desi Chinese cuisine but also used in other Asian and Arabic cookery. Five-spice powder is used for cocktails as well.

While there are many variants, a common mix is: Star anise (bajiao) Cloves (dingxiang) Chinese cinnamon (rougui) Sichuan pepper (huajiao) Fennel seeds (xiao huixiang) Other recipes may contain anise seed, ginger root, nutmeg, turmeric, Amomum villosum pods, Amomum cardamomum pods, licorice, Mandarin orange peel or galangal.

In Southern China, Cinnamomum loureiroi and Mandarin orange peel, are commonly used as substitutes for Cinnamomum cassia and cloves, respectively, producing a slightly different flavour profile for southern five-spice powders.

Five spice may be used with fatty meats such as pork, duck or goose. It is used as a spice rub for chicken, duck, pork and seafood, in red cooking recipes, or added to the breading for fried foods. Five spice is used in recipes for Cantonese roasted duck, as well as beef stew. It is used as a marinade for Vietnamese broiled chicken. The five-spice powder mixture has followed the Chinese diaspora and has been incorporated into other national cuisines throughout Asia.

Although this mixture is used in restaurant cooking, few Chinese households use it in day-to-day cooking. In Hawaii, some restaurants place a shaker of the spice on each patron’s table. A seasoned salt can be easily made by dry-roasting common salt with five-spice powder under low heat in a dry pan until the spice and salt are well mixed.

Here is a recipe I use at home: 

Chinese Spices Mix

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon ground star anise
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon dried ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch of ground cardamom
pinch of ground chili

It is best to toast the spices just as you are ready to compound the mixture. Ensure that all spices are ground well and mix thoroughly before use. You can upscale the recipe if you need more. Rather than store it, I prefer to make it as I need it from the raw spices.

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