As legend has it, the ancient Chinese attempted to produce a wonder powder—a blend so evocative and mind-blowing that it would include all of the five flavors—sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty.
What resulted was Chinese Five-Spice, one of the most aromatic and beloved spice blends in the world.
But here’s the rub. There’s no ONE Chinese Five-Spice. Every Chinese cook worth their salt has their own SECRET recipe, often handed down over many generations. These are closely held recipes, even though the basic components are known. The basic blend consists typically of cinnamon, fennel seed, star anise, clove, and Sichuan pepper.
Secondary spices are sometimes added as well. Thus, Chinese Five-Spice easily turns into Six-Spice, Seven Spice, and yes, even my beloved Chinese Ten-Spice.
Some of the optional spices include allspice, black pepper, coriander, cumin, galangal, ginger, green cardamom, nutmeg, orange peel, and turmeric.
If I can say one thing definitive about this spice blend though, it’s that the dominant flavor note should be licorice (star anise, anise, fennel). That’s what distinguishes it from some other spice blends, such as Garam Masala.
But regardless of which spices are used, the secret and the magic of this spice blend derives not so much from the spices themselves as from the proportion of the spices to each other. In other words, this is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It’s all about finesse and balance.
LunaCafe Chinese Five-Spice
Fresh spices are important for best results with this aromatic spice blend. All spices lose aroma and flavor with long or non-optimal storage. Whole spices should be used within six months of purchase and stored in an airtight, dark container in a cool location.
The aroma of these spices when they are toasting is remarkable. Take a moment, breathe in fully, and just enjoy. Isn’t life good?
3 whole star anise pieces, broken into points
20 whole cloves
3-inch soft cinnamon stick (canela), broken
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon whole Sichuan peppercorn
- In nonstick skillet set over medium heat, toast the spices until just fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Immediately remove from the heat, let cool, and then grind to a powder in a spice grinder.
- Put through a large mesh strainer to ensure that you don’t have any remaining large chunks.
- When cool, store in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry location.
Makes about ¼ cup.
More LunaCafe Chinese Five-Spice Recipes
- Blackberry Lime Syrup with Star Anise
- Chinese Cracker Jacks
- Heavenly Hot Chocolate Mix–with Seven Variations
- Silver Bells (Chinese Five Spice Butter Cookies)
More LunaCafe Spice Blends
- Chinese Five Spice
- Chinese Ten-Spice
- Garam Masala
- Mejadra Spice
- Ras el Hanout
- Smokin’ Hot Cajun Spice
- Warm Winter Spice
Cookin with Gas (inspiration from around the web)
- The Secret of Chinese Five-Spice | Duck and Roses
- Five-Spice Pork Rinds with Ginger Black Vinegar Dipping Sauce | Waste Not, Want Not
- Spicy Caramel Pork Loin with Vietnamese Papaya and Apple Slaw (with Five-Spice) | Duck and Roses
- Uyghur Five-Spice Blend | The Silk Road Gourmet
Copyright 2015 Susan S. Bradley. All Rights Reserved.
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