Thursday, 16 July 2009


The Chinese five spice powder is a mixture of five spices used in Chinese cuisine. Although the exact origins of five-spice powder are lost to history, there is some thought that the Chinese were attempting to produce a "wonder powder" encompassing all of the five elements. All of the five flavours - sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, and salty - are found in five-spice powder. Then again, it's possible that a cook accidentally stumbled upon this particular combination of spices, and realized its power to enliven the blandest dish. Whatever the case, there is no doubt that five spice powder is unique.

This spice blend is a staple in Chinese cooking, and is often used in a technique called "flavour potting", where meat is steeped in a rich sauce and cooked for long hours. The spices and volumes used in five spice powders may differ slightly between recipes. However, the main ingredients are star anise, cloves, cassia, Szechwan pepper and fennel seeds. Some recipes use them in equal proportions, whilst others use more of one to heighten a specific flavour. Generally though, Chinese five spice powder is dominated by the aroma and flavour of the star anise.

It is used in many Asian recipes, its sweet tangy flavour going well with greasy meats like pork and duck. Stir-fried vegetables are enhanced by sprinkling about a teaspoon of the powder over the vegetables when cooking. Add a little salt to the powder, and it makes an excellent spice rub for chicken, duck, pork and seafood.

Here’s a recipe that I usually use (courtesy of the Epicentre)

1 1/2 tbsp star anise
2 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 tsp cassia
1/2 tsp Szechwan pepper
1/2 tsp cloves

Optional: 1/2 teaspoon white pepper and/or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. Both will give added bite and depth to the flavour


In a frying pan, over medium heat, dry roast the Szechuan pepper until aromatic. Ensure that the pepper is evenly roasted by continually shaking the pan. This should take about 3 minutes.

Add the roasted Szechuan pepper to a spice/coffee grinder along with the star anise, fennel seeds, cassia and cloves. Grind to a fine powder. Add in the white pepper and ground ginger. Store in an airtight container.

Source: Wikipedia, Chinesefood.About.Com and The Epicentre

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