Spices: Chinese Five Spice Powder


Chinese Five-Spice Powder | Chinese and Thai | Ng Geung Fun, Ngung Heung Fun, Hung-Liu

All over China, Five Spice Powder (ng geung fun, ngung heung fun, hung-liu) is known and valued. This is an aromatic, intense and tantalising spice of various recipes. It has been used in China since ancient times. The number 5 is significant in Chinese belief, and the five spice blend is said to be beneficial to health. It is said that the five spices provide the five flavours essential to the balance of the palate and the health of the individual – sweet, salty, sour, bitter and pungent.

This spice mixture contains star anise, cassia (or cinnamon), cloves, fennel and Szechuan pepper usually in equal parts. Optionally, ginger, galangal, black cardamom (Southern China) or even liquorice may be added. The spices should be kept whole and powdered before usage.

Since the spice mixture is very aromatic (although not hot), it should be used with care. It is often added to the batter of Chinese-style fried vegetables and used in marinades.

Chinese Five Spices | Five Spice Powder

A Typical Recipe for Five Spice Powder

5 Star Anise, 1 Tblspn Fennel Seeds, 1 Tblspn Szechuan Peppercorns (or use black pepper corns if you have to), 0.5 Tblspn Cloves, 0.5 Tblspn ground cassia or cinnamon

Some people prefer to roast the spices. If so, in a dry pan over medium heat, toast the spices until fragrant. Swirl the pan gently and toss the seeds occasionally to prevent burning. Allow to cool.

Grind the spices to a fine powder.

Some blends are:

How to Use Chinese Five Spice Powder

Add a pinch to vegetable stir fries, rice dishes, and even some baked goods for the unexpected and warming flavors. Five-spice powder goes very nicely with tofu.

You might like to browse our Asian recipes here and here. Feel free to browse recipes from our Retro Recipes series – vegetarian recipes from our first blog from 1995 – 2006. You might also like our Spice information here.

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