Five-spice powder (五香粉) is a very commonly used ingredient in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine. Five-spice powder encompasses all five flavors - sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty. Based on the name “five-spice”, you can probably guess there are five different spices in five-spice powder. These are commonly a mixture of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan pepper and fennel seeds. This isn’t definite though and five-spice powder can also include anise seeds, ginger root, nutmeg, turmeric, amomum villosum pods, cardamom pods, licorice, orange peel or galangal.
In Taiwan, we use five-spice powder quite often. Five-spice powder is a key seasoning for dishes including minced pork rice (魯肉飯), deep-fried fish and pork rolls (炸雞捲).
In southern China, five-spice powder usually uses Saigon Cinnamon and orange peel to replace Chinese cinnamon and cloves so the five-spice powder from southern China tastes a little bit different compared to other five-spice powder from other regions of China.
You can use five-spice powder in many different ways in Chinese and Taiwanese including. These include adding it to stew meat or poultry, marinade meat or poultry, use a spice rub for roasting foods, seasoning in red cooking recipes and add to the breading for fried foods.
Sometimes if I don’t have any five-spice powder at home, I will use a couple star anise and some cinnamon sticks instead. The flavor won’t be as good as five-spice powder but it’s ok.
- Use five-spice powder sparingly, as it can be quite strong.
- If desired, you can substitute black peppercorns for Sichuan peppercorns and ground anise for the star anise. (8 star anise is about 4 teaspoons of ground anise.
- 2 teaspoons of Sichuan peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds
- 20g Star anise
- 10g Chinese cinnamon or Saigon cinnamon
- 20g Sichuan peppercorn
- 10g Cumin seed (or ground cumin)
- 6g Cloves
- In a dry skillet or wok, roast 2 teaspoons of Sichuan peppercorns by shaking the pan over a low to medium heat until the aroma of the peppercorns is released. This procedure will take around three minutes.
- Grind the roasted peppercorns and 8-star anise in a blender, pepper mill or spices grinder.
- Strain the blended seasonings.
- Mix in ½ teaspoon ground cloves, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of ground fennel seeds.
- Grind the seasonings until very fine.
- Store in an airtight container and keep it in a dark and cool space.
- In a dry skillet or wok, roast Sichuan peppercorns by shaking the pan over a low to medium heat until the aroma of the peppercorns is released.
- Put Sichuan peppercorns and star anise in a spice grinder first and grind them until it turned very finely.
- Add other spices in the grinder and grind it to very finely.
- Pass the ground spices through a sieve and discard the spices that are left on the sieve.
- Store the five-spice powder in a dry, clean and airtight container and store it in a dark and cool space.