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A Simple Guide to Chinese Five Spice Powder

Chinese five spice powder is one of the most well-known seasonings across Asian cuisine and arguably around the world. Most people think this powder gets its name from being made up of 5 specific spices, however, its origins are rooted in various aspects of Chinese culture. Some think the seasoning powder derives from ancient Chinese medicine and believe the combination of spices embodies harmony and health through the balancing of common flavours in Chinese cuisine including bitter, salty, sour, sweet and pungent. To achieve this, a traditional  five spice powder consists of a mixture of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan peppers and fennel seeds; although it’s not uncommon for variations of spices to be used and to contain more than just five spices.

What is Chinese Five Spice Powder?

It is a traditional dry Chinese seasoning powder which consists of five or more ground herbs and spices including but not limited to star anise, cloves, Sichuan peppers, fennel seeds and a Chinese cinnamon. Variations of five spice powders exist across different regions in China. Southern regions of China have a sweeter and fruiter blend of the seasoning while other regions opt for peppery and pungent flavours. Variations in five spice powder can simply be due to individual recipes and preference. Other ingredients commonly used in five spice powder include nutmeg, ginger and white pepper. 

What Does Five Spice Powder Taste Like?

Knowing what ingredients are used in five spice powder doesn’t give you the fullest picture of what the seasoning tastes like. The taste is ultimately in the combination of ground herbs, spices and how they blend and compliment each other. It has elements of numbing spice from the Sichuan peppers, liquorice flavours from the star anise and sweetened tones from cinnamon and fennel. Five spice overall can be described as a pungent warming, spicy and sweet seasoning that isn’t overpowering. However, the best way to find out how this tastes is to try it for yourself. 

Check out our range of Chinese five spice powders:

thai food online chinese five spice powders

How Is Five Spice Powder Used?

Chinese five spice food recipes

Five spice seasoning powder is ideal for use in recipes for slow-cooking, fatty and greasy meats. Think of enhancing the rich flavours of red meats such as roasted pork or a comforting beef stew. Naturally, this seasoning works perfectly in traditional Chinese dishes such as Char Siu or braised pork belly and it’s also great with fattier white meats such as duck or goose. 

Don’t feel limited to using five spice on meat recipes though, it works a treat in both sweet and savoury recipes! Add to your panko mix next time you’re making something breaded for extra depth in crunchy flavour or add it to your baking recipes. If you find both cinnamon and nutmeg listed as ingredients in your five spice powder, that makes it perfect for use as a ‘mixed spice’ in cakes, cookies and other sweet baked recipes. You could even experiment with drink recipes such as hot chocolates and chai-style lattes!

How to Store Chinese Five Spice Powder:

Five spice powder is great to purchase premade, simply because this will save you the time and effort of making it at home but also because you will get a consistent flavour every time. When you buy premade Chinese five spice powder, be sure to store it at home in an airtight glass container away from heat or sunlight and in a dry location such as a cupboard. This will help you ensure your mixture stays in the best and freshest condition for as long as possible and can be used for several months. 

Check out our products containing five spice seasoning:

products containing chinese five spice powder

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