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, five-spice powder is used 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 cooking. These include adding it to stew meat or poultry, marinade meat or poultry, using a spice rub for roasting foods, seasoning, and adding to the breading for fried foods.
If you don’t have any five-spice powder at home, you can use a couple star anise and some cinnamon sticks instead.
- 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).
- In a dry skillet or wok, roast the Sichuan peppercorns by shaking the pan over low to medium heat until the aroma of the peppercorns is released. This procedure will take around three minutes.
- Grind the roasted peppercorns and star anise in a blender, pepper mill or spices grinder.
- Strain the blended seasonings.
- Mix in the ground cloves, ground cinnamon and ground fennel seeds.
- Grind the seasonings until very fine.
- Store in an airtight container and keep it in a dark and cool space.