What’s in Chinese Five Spices

posted in: Recommendations | 3

Chinese 5-Spices provides a myriad of flavour bursts and can be found in a wide variety of dishes in Asia.  The five different spices consist of cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, Sichuan pepper and star anise – they don’t need to be equal in quantity.

You can find Chinese 5-Spices from any local supermarket or Chinese supermarket (click here for listings of Asian Supermarkets in Cape Town).

This picture was sourced from here
  • Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of the most well known spices in the world because of cinnamon and sugar pancakes. True cinnamon is actually the bark of an evergreen tree from Sri Lanka, but most cinnamon sold throughout the world comes from a plant relative called ‘cassia”. Unlike true cinnamon, rougui (cassia bark) offers a stronger flavour, is cheaper and has a thicker texture.

  • Cloves

This spice can be used whole or ground and is found in various dishes in Asia. Cloves are buds (unopened flowers) of an evergreen tree native to Indonesia.

  • Fennel Seed powder

Fennel seeds provide a liquoricy taste and is often used to flavour breads, marinades, sauces and liqueurs. This flavour comes from a chemical known as “anethole” and also exists in star anise. Cool thing about anethole is that it’s 13 times sweeter than sugar.

  • Sichuan Pepper

Sichuan pepper, also known as Szechuan pepper, is actually not even pepper. This spice originates from the Sichuan province in china and is merely the husk of an ash tree fruit. Sichuan pepper also contains a chemical component called Hydroxy-alpha-sanshool which cases a numbing sensation in the mouth.

Warning: Don’t consume in large amounts, can become poisonous to the human body.

Served in Chinese hot pot.

  • Star Anise

One of my favourite spices is star anise. It originates from China and (as mentioned under Fennel Seed), it contains enethole, which creates the liquoricy flavour. Star anise is a star-shaped brown pod and used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Found in Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

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3 Responses

  1. Werner
    | Reply

    Thanks Ming! That’s an awesome and interesting post. I’ll definitely try and make my own 5 spice. There is a New Asian Spice Supermarket opened in Somerset West Main Road!

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