When you place your usual Chinese order at a restaurant, spicy is usually the last thing you would describe it as. It is complex yet simple and very fragrant, but never really spicy.
On the contrary, authentic Chinese cuisine can be credited for and characterised by the world-famous “five-spice powder”, just like India and Garam Masala.
What is a Five-Spice powder exactly?
There is no proven history of the origin of five-spice powder, but the philosophy behind its creation is what’s interesting. The Chinese were attempting to make the perfect magic blend of spices, representing the five elements: air, water, fire, wood and metal, basically resembling the five flavours of Chinese cuisine: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and pungent, and hence the five spices: Cinnamon, Fennel, Cloves, Star Anise and Sichuan peppers. Modern variations also contain aniseed, cassia or liquorice and are often called seven spice powders.
How to make it?
Star anise-5 to 6
Fennel seeds- 1 tablespoon
Gusto Spicerie Premium Cinnamon - 2 sticks
Tassyam Rare Sichuan Pepper -2 teaspoons
Dry roast all the spices in a pan. Mind that cinnamon, star anise and cloves take longer than the others to release its fragrant oils. Grind it up into a fine powder and sieve and store in airtight bottles.
How to use it?
Chinese five-spice is the best for spice rubs for meats and vegetables that you want to roast. Just mix a few tablespoons in neutral or olive oil and rub it over whatever you are roasting.
Fun Fact: It is the spice rub that gives Peking duck and Chinese roasts their signature taste.
Another great way to use it is in deep fry batters and crumbing. Additionally, you can also toss your noodles in it and sprinkle it over soup the next time you make Chinese at home, or just serve on the side in shaker bottles along with soy sauce as an extra seasoning as the authentic restaurants do.