Five-spice powder (五香粉) is a very commonly used ingredient in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine and encompasses all five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. Based on the name, you can probably guess there are five different spices in this Asian seasoning. These are commonly a mixture of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds, but five-spice powder can also include anise seeds, ginger root, nutmeg, turmeric, amomum villosum pods, cardamom pods, licorice, orange peel, or galangal.
You can use five-spice powder in many different ways in Chinese and Taiwanese cooking, including adding it to stew meat or poultry, making it part of a marinade, as a spice rub when roasting foods, and as a seasoning in the breading for fried foods.
In a dry skillet or wok, toast the Sichuan peppercorns by shaking the pan over low to medium heat until the aroma of the peppercorns is released. This will take around 3 minutes.
Grind the roasted peppercorns and star anise in a blender, pepper mill, or spice grinder.
Pass the blended seasonings through a strainer so you are left with an even consistency.
Mix in the ground cloves, ground cinnamon, and ground fennel seeds.
Place the mixture back into the blender and grind the seasonings until very fine.
Store in an airtight container and keep it in a dark and cool space.
Tips and Variations
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. (One star anise is about 1/2 teaspoon of ground anise).
If you don’t have some of the ingredients here, you can use a couple star anise and some cinnamon sticks instead.
Recipes Using Five-Spice Powder
There are several Chinese recipes that feature five-spice powder on the ingredient list, such as five-spice pork with bok choy and green onions, a flavorful chicken and vegetable dish called princess chicken, and five-spice peanuts, which make a satisfying snack. But not every recipe has to be Chinese in nature for you to use five-spice powder. A typical roast chicken takes on a whole new life when seasoned with this flavorful mixture, as do glazed carrots. Next time you are grilling a steak, reach for the five-spice powder as your spice rub.
All About Five-Spice Powder
In southern China, five-spice powder usually includes Saigon Cinnamon and orange peel instead of the Chinese cinnamon and cloves, so the five-spice powder from southern China tastes a little bit different compared to that from other regions. In Taiwan, five-spice powder is used quite often; it is a key seasoning for dishes including minced pork, rice (魯肉飯), deep-fried fish, and pork rolls (炸雞捲).