Chinese Five Spice: At a Glance
When it comes to Chinese cooking, the most frequent spice blend you’ll come across is what is known as the Chinese five spice powder. It is a blend of spices that works really well with meats that are often greasy and slow-simmered, such as to duck or pork.
Chinese five spice deserves a permanent place within your assortment of go-to spices, and there is absolutely no need to feel constrained to using it just for traditional Chinese cuisine. In fact, check out some of these recipe ideas below.
Cooking with Chinese Five Spice
It’s important that you maintain control over the heat and sweetness that these five spices contain, in order to preserve their flavor. To do so, store this blend in an airtight container and position it away from any kind of moisture and/or heat.
With that said, here are a couple recipes that we think you might enjoy:
- Five Spice Chicken Breasts with Sesame-Orange Beans: Using the Chinese five spice blend on this particular, easy-to-make dish will have you salivating for more.
- Five Spice Flank Steak: It can also be used to turn an ordinary steak into an extraordinary delicacy. In fact, the sweet and tangy flavor is almost like honey barbeque, only better.
Believe it or not, you can also use Chinese five spice powder to spruce up just about any veggie entree or snack. Here are just a few ideas you can use to impress your friends with your extraordinary “chef skills” by taking ordinary appetizers and easy-to-make snacks appear extra fancy.
- Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges
- Five Spice Pecans
- Chinese Five Spiced Apple Chips
- Five Spice Cranberry Relish with Goat Cheese
The truth is, once you start using Chinese five spice powder, you’ll be adding it to just about everything.
Chinese Five Spice: History and Origination
The origin of this famous spice blend is a bit unclear. It can be found all throughout Chinese history and tradition, and has been a key ingredient in many Chinese recipes for many years. However, some believe that its first use was for the purpose of Chinese traditional medicine during the fourth century BCE.
Although it is mostly found in Chinese cuisine, it has also found its way into other international styles of cooking—such as Hawaiian and Vietnamese cuisine. Moreover, it has also been found to be used as a flavorful addition to cocktails and even desserts.
Chinese five spice powder is a mix of these main five spices: cassia cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise, and szechuan peppercorns. However, it is important to also bear in mind that there are just as many different recipes for Chinese five spice powder as there are those who use them.
The five main spices that are used in Chinese five spice powder represent what is referred to as “the five flavor profiles” of sour, sweet, bitter, salty, and pungent.
Cultivation of Chinese Five Spice
You can make your own Chinese five spice powder right in your own back yard. For instance, cinnamon and szechuan peppercorn can be grown in containers. However, it is important that they are brought inside during the winter.
Cinnamon is typically harvested from the bark of a cinnamon tree, which is tropical. Cloves are the dried flower buds grown from clove trees, which are also tropical. These particular trees require large amounts of rainfall—between 50 and 70 inches annually—and a lot of humidity.
Fennel is a long lasting, drought tolerant plant, and both the foliage and seeds are used to flavor foods. In this case, the seeds are what are used in Chinese five spice powder.
Szechuan peppercorn is produced from a flowering plant native to eastern China and Taiwan. It is related to the citrus family—similar to lemons and limes. They are best planted during the spring or fall, and it is best to avoid waterlogged soil. The reddish-pink hull is the actual pepper we eat, not the seed or marble.
Lastly, star anise comes from the illicium verum tree and is best grown in subtropical conditions, where the temperature rarely falls below 15° F (-10° C). It requires a rich compost-type soil and regular watering. They are then picked while they are still green, and then sun dried until their color changes to reddish-brown.
About Our Chinese Five Spice
We import each of the five components of the Chinese five spice powder from the following locations and then blend them in-house:
- Our cassia cinnamon is grown in the cool hills of Indonesia.
- Our cloves come from the fertile soils of Madagascar, which is a little island in the Indian Ocean.
- Our fennel seeds comes from Northern California and Southern Oregon, where the cool, year-round climate helps provoke rampant seed production.
- Our star anise is cultivated in the misty, mountainous province of Lang Song, in northern Vietnam.
- Our Szechuan Peppercorn is cultivated in the Shanxi province of China, which is located in the northern region.