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What Is In Chinese Five-Spice Powder?

Chinese Five Spice Powder

Five-spice powder is a popular Chinese spice blend with five distinct flavors, including sweet, salty, umami, sour, and bitter. It is believed that the incorporation of these five fundamental tastes reflects the Chinese traditional elements including fire, earth, water, wood, and metal. And, so this spice blend is thought to induce internal harmony and balance of body, mind, and soul. Putting aside this traditional philosophy, five-spice powder is a warm and comforting blend to add to your holiday meals and desserts to keep you cozy. 

What are the spices in Chinese 5-spice powder?

Chinese five-spice powder is prepared by grinding together Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, and star anise. However, some five-spice brands may include additional ingredients like nutmeg, ginger, licorice, and orange peel.

Image Credit: Mareefe from Pixabay 

What does Chinese Five-Spice Taste Like?

5-spice powder imparts a range of flavors to dishes from warm and sweet to cool and deep to peppery coming from the star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, and peppercorns respectively. Some people find its flavor similar to licorice and garam masala combined.

Recipes Using Chinese Five-Spice Powder

Five-spice powder is excessively used in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine. From stews to roasts, and marinades to spice rubs, this warm spice blend gives a comforting aura to the dishes. It’s also used in the breading for fried meat and vegetables and tastes equally delicious in sweet-savory dishes like orange chicken, and roasted carrots. While using five-spice powder, make sure to add it sparingly as it’s strongly flavored and can overpower other ingredients quite easily.

You can toss it into a mixture of breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, mixed herbs, and olive oil and top it over mac and cheese followed by a quick broil, and voila! You’ve got an aromatic crusty topping to upgrade your traditional mac and cheese. Our recipe for Vietnamese Pho is a great candidate for using this spice blend.

You can incorporate the five-spice powder into the following recipes to give them a boost of warm and vibrant flavor.

      5-Spice Short Ribs

      Ground Beef Chili

      Soy Marinated Pork Chops

      Roast Chicken with Vodka Sauce

Much like nutmeg and cinnamon, five-spice can be added to some desserts like puddings, tea cakes, pumpkin pies, and cinnamon rolls.

Chinese 5-spice Substitute

Garam masala is a close substitute for Chinese five-spice as both contain somewhat similar ingredients. You can add a quarter tsp of ground star anise to three-quarter tsp of garam masala for a strong match. 

Feature Image: Flickr user timsackton ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

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