What is five-spice powder?
It is made of star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon bark (the Chinese variety called cassia), cloves and Sichuan pepper.
It is important not to confuse the quatre épices (four spices) with five-spice powder. If the latter is of Chinese origin, the former is part of the composition of many dishes from the Middle Ages in Europe, particularly in France. This one also consists of cloves and ginger but also nutmeg and black pepper. This mixture is very popular in North African cuisines.
What is the origin of five-spice powder?
In Chinese cosmology, the number five corresponds to the five basic elements: fire, earth, metal, water and wood. This symbolism is particularly important in Chinese cuisine. According to the precepts of traditional Chinese medicine, this mix stimulates every organ in the body.
In China, even though 5-spice powder is always composed of the same ingredients, the quantity of each differs from one region to another and especially from one cook to another. However, it is possible for the Chinese spice blend to contain many more spices such as Ceylon cinnamon, dried citrus zest (tangerine or orange), white pepper, green anise, nutmeg or ground ginger.
Some people like this mix to be very spicy with a lot of Sichuan pepper, others prefer it sweeter with a lot of cinnamon. The blends are classified between light, soft, warm, and intense. Five-spice powder also brings together the five basic flavors of Chinese cuisine: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and spicy.
The exact origin of five-spice powder is unknown. However, its invention may be related to the medical field. It could go back to the fourth century BCE.
How to prepare five-spice powder
Making five-spice powder at home couldn’t be easier, just roast the Sichuan peppercorns in a wok without adding any fat. A delicious scent of pepper will quickly emerge.
All the ingredients can then be combined in a spice grinder or a coffee grinder and ground until a fine powder is obtained.
Chinese five-spice powder can then be stored for a long time in a tightly closed glass jar. However, it is not necessary to prepare too much in advance. As it is quick to prepare, it is better to prepare a fresh mix from time to time as needed and store only a small amount. The scent of spices tends to fade over time.
To obtain a very fine powder, pass the spice blend through a sieve.
How to use five-spice powder
Five-spice can be used during cooking or can be added at the last moment similarly to other spice mixes such as ras-el hanout or garam masala.
Five-spice powder can be combined with soy sauce, nuoc-mam or even Shaoxing wine. In Chinese cuisine, everything is a question of balance of power and fragrance. Five-spice powder can even be used to flavor desserts for bold combinations.
Five-spice powder is used in sweet and savory dishes, generally pork, chicken or duck.
The powder is easy to use in marinades and can be used to flavor meat by rubbing it on the skin of a duck, for example. The best known use of the five spice powder is that of Peking duck.
Even without cooking a traditional recipe, five-spice powder will give any dish a special and very balanced Chinese flavor.
Five-spice powder (五香粉) is a spice blend widely used in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine. It is composed of star anise, fennel, cinnamon, cloves and Sichuan pepper.
- 9 Chinese star anise
- 2 teaspoons whole cloves
- 2 sticks Chinese cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 4 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
- In a dry pan or wok, roast the Sichuan peppercorns, stirring constantly, over medium / low heat, until the aroma of the peppercorns is released, for about 3 minutes.
- Place the Sichuan peppercorns and all the other ingredients in a spice grinder (or coffee grinder) and grind until you get a smooth and uniform consistency.
- Store the mixture in a tightly sealed glass spice jar.