Chinese Five Spice Powder is a combination of five spices; star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, and fennel. It is a spice combination you can use in many dishes, including baked goods and desserts. My father makes a really delicious ginger chicken dish, a favorite in our home, and I love using it in soups, cookies, and desserts.
Although the name describes the number of spices used, it actually represents the five elements (wu hsing) that are believed in chinese philosophy to create harmony in all of nature, specifically the human body. Because each element is represented in the powder, balance is created.
norecipes.com says of the spice mix:
“…these elements [wood, fire, water, earth, metal, and water] manifest themselves in various parts of the human anatomy and imbalances in these elements are said to be the cause of disease. Various herbs and spices have been used for thousands of years to restore balance to these elements which is how 5 spice powder came into being.”
It is easy to make yourself, and it should also be easy to find at your local asian market. Keep reading for the recipe to make it yourself, and some recipes that highlight five spice powder.
chinese five spice powder
from mark bittman in food matters
1 Tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns*
6 star anise
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves
One 3 inch stick cinnamon or cassia
2 Tablespoons fennel seeds
Put in a dry skillet over medium heat, dry roast until fragrant, do not burn them. Crush in a mortar and pestle or grind together in a spice/coffee grinder or food processor until a fine powder. You can sift through a sieve to remove any large chunks that weren’t fully ground. Store in air tight container in a cool place, use as needed.
Feel free to add other spices such as cardamom, ginger, mustard, fenugreek, or cumin. Try different spices for different dishes and tastes.
* I used black peppercorns because I didn’t have sichuan peppercorns easily available. Using black peppercorns will give it a different taste, but it still works fine.
Here are a few recipes that use five spice powder and sound delicious, although many of the recipes you already use might be enhanced with a little added. If you do add it to existing recipes add it a pinch at a time as the powder can be powerful if too much is added.
Mix the powder with some sea salt to make a rub for meats, poultry and fish, or with oil for a marinade or add to a vinaigrette, stir fry, soup, or vegetable dish.
I know, they’re mostly desserts.