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Five Spice Powder - Making your own


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From Wiki Cookbook : Chinese Five Spice Powder

  • 2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns
  • 8 star anise pods
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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Don't forget chinese cinnamon is cassia, the outer bark. I make up the mix to my taste, adding a little dried sand ginger. It loses freshness very fast, so i pound very small amounts by hand when needed. Much better than the commercial powder.

Edited by muichoi (log)
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When I made my own I read somewhere that what we call cinnamon in NA is actually cassia. Cinnamon is something slightly different in Europe apparently.

Anyways, I did 1:1 for everything and it turned out great, although I didn't use Szechuan peppercorns.

If you can get ground star anise do it. I ground my own and the kitchen smelled like a licorice factory for weeks.

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  • 5 months later...

When making homemade five spice powder, does one toast the spices before grinding? I will be using it immediately, if that makes a difference. Also, do "Szechuan Peppercorns" have another name? I saw them at my local organic foods store, but there was no sign of anything by that title at the Asian Megamart, which I'm sure must carry, whatever they are. I read someplace that I could sub in white peppercorns for the Szechuan if necessary. Any thoughts on this practice?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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When making homemade five spice powder, does one toast the spices before grinding? I will be using it immediately, if that makes a difference. Also, do "Szechuan Peppercorns" have another name? I saw them at my local organic foods store, but there was no sign of anything by that title at the Asian Megamart, which I'm sure must carry, whatever they are. I read someplace that I could sub in white peppercorns for the Szechuan if necessary. Any thoughts on this practice?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Sichuan pepper

Traditional Chinese: 花椒

Simplified Chinese: 花椒

Hanyu Pinyin: huājiāo

[show]Transliterations

Mandarin

- Hanyu Pinyin: huājiāo

Sichuan pepper (or Szechuan pepper) is the outer pod of the tiny fruit of a number of species in the genus Zanthoxylum (most commonly Z. piperitum, Z. simulans, Z. sancho and Z. schinifolium), widely grown and consumed in Asia as a spice. Despite the name, it is not related to black pepper or to chili peppers. It is widely used in the cuisine of Sichuan, China, from which it takes its name, as well as Tibetan, Bhutanese, Nepalese, Japanese and Konkani and Batak Toba cuisines, among others.

It is known in Chinese as huājiāo (花椒; literally "flower pepper"); a lesser-used name is shānjiāo (山椒; literally "mountain pepper"; not to be confused with Tasmanian mountain pepper). In Japanese, it is 山椒 sanshō, using the same Chinese characters as shanjiao. In Tibetan, it is known as g.yer ma. In Konkani it is known as tepal or tirphal [1]. In Indonesia's North Sumatra province, around Lake Toba, it is known as andaliman in the Batak Toba language and tuba in the Batak Karo language. In America, it is sold as fagara or flower pepper as well as Sichuan pepper..."

:wacko: White peppercorn is NOT a reasonable substitute. :wacko:

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Alas, since I was dumb and did not buy any Sichuan pepper when I saw it, I was stuck leaving it out. I did end up "subbing in" a mix of white pepper and black pepper. I understand it's not the same thing, but desperate times call for desperate measures! I toasted all of the spices except the cinnamon (which was pre-ground: there didn't seem to be a point) and used the ratios posted above, more or less (I was using whole spices so I just guessed how to convert from ground to whole in the measurements). The most noticeable difference between this and the prepackaged stuff I was used to was its pungency: it seemed far stronger in flavor than even a fresh bottle of pre-packaged five spice mix. This required a bit of adjustment to the recipe I was using it in (an adjustment that I did not perform, because I didn't realize it would be needed until too late). I like the ability to customize this to my personal tastes, and I really can't see going back to the prepackaged stuff. It always seems to heavy on the cinnamon to me.

Is it common practice in China to mix this up yourself, or do most people use a commercial blend?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Black or white peppercorns are nothing like Sichuan Peppercorns (which are not peppers at all!). Definitely not a substitute.

Also, Five Spice Powder doesn't necessarily contain five spices. Numbers in Chinese can have a non-literal meaning. Here it just means around five.

Is it common practice in China to mix this up yourself, or do most people use a commercial blend?

The latter. Not that people actually use it very much.

Centuries ago, when I was a young man, I worked in London’s Leicester Square. My office backed onto Chinatown and, every day, by 10 am I would be dribbling and frothing and salivating at the smells emanating from the back windows of the restaurants.

Now, I’m not saying that the restaurants in London’s Chinatown are good. A few are. Most are execrable. But they sure know how to lay on a smell.

So, when I first came to China, I expected to find the same smell. No! Zilch! China smells nothing like Chinatown.

Then I went to Hong Kong for the first time. Before we pretended to hand it back! That smells like Chinatown.

So, then I started to think about the source of the smell. What is it? After many sniffings, I decided it’s Five Spice Powder. It seems to be more popular there than anywhere else. Of course, it originates in Sichuan, but even there isn’t used that much.

The individual ingredients, Sichuan Peppercorns, Cassia bark, Fennel, Star Anise, Cloves etc are used much more often on their own – particularly to flavour hot pots in winter.

I just did a quick and highly unscientific poll of all my Chinese friends who happen to be online. 13 of them. Only one could find Five Spice Powder in her kitchen. And she is from Hong Kong! Said it has been there for years.

My local convenience store doesn’t carry it, but it is sometimes available in the larger supermarkets.

I’m told that it occasionally bought for certain festivals, but not for every day use. I can’t find anyone who makes it themselves.

Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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My neighbor in college used the spices typically associated with five spice powder whole, usually in soups. I can't say I've noticed the flavor much in China or even Hong Kong, but I've only spent time in Beijing, HK and Taipei. Plus I'm vegetarian, so the chances are lower that I'd encounter it.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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Is it common practice in China to mix this up yourself, or do most people use a commercial blend?

From a Hong Kong experience... People usually buy the five spice mix because:

1) They are quite readily available in stores.

2) Most people may not have the knowledge on the actual "five spice" ingredients, let alone the ratio, in mixing the five spices. Why not let the experts handle it?

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Black or white peppercorns are nothing like Sichuan Peppercorns (which are not peppers at all!). Definitely not a substitute.

Also, Five Spice Powder doesn't necessarily contain five spices. Numbers in Chinese can have a non-literal meaning. Here it just means around five.

Is it common practice in China to mix this up yourself, or do most people use a commercial blend?

The latter. Not that people actually use it very much.

Centuries ago, when I was a young man, I worked in London’s Leicester Square. My office backed onto Chinatown and, every day, by 10 am I would be dribbling and frothing and salivating at the smells emanating from the back windows of the restaurants.

Now, I’m not saying that the restaurants in London’s Chinatown are good. A few are. Most are execrable. But they sure know how to lay on a smell.

So, when I first came to China, I expected to find the same smell. No! Zilch! China smells nothing like Chinatown.

Then I went to Hong Kong for the first time. Before we pretended to hand it back! That smells like Chinatown.

So, then I started to think about the source of the smell. What is it? After many sniffings, I decided it’s Five Spice Powder. It seems to be more popular there than anywhere else. Of course, it originates in Sichuan, but even there isn’t used that much.

The individual ingredients, Sichuan Peppercorns, Cassia bark, Fennel, Star Anise, Cloves etc are used much more often on their own – particularly to flavour hot pots in winter.

I just did a quick and highly unscientific poll of all my Chinese friends who happen to be online. 13 of them. Only one could find Five Spice Powder in her kitchen. And she is from Hong Kong! Said it has been there for years.

My local convenience store doesn’t carry it, but it is sometimes available in the larger supermarkets.

I’m told that it occasionally bought for certain festivals, but not for every day use. I can’t find anyone who makes it themselves.

So this is a pretty amazing post. Where did Five Spice Powder originate? Is it a western "invention"?

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I don't wish to go on a limb and say that 5 spice powder is used indiscriminately nor do I want to say that it is never used, but it is used. In my experience I can readily name several instances where the spice powder is used. My mother and all the ladies in our small corner of Toysaan made a glutinous rice, deep fried , half moon-shaped pastry with meat and chive filling flavoured with 5 spice; sometimes lazy restaurant cooks would freshen up and renew their loo sui with a spoonful of 5 spice powder; I have tasted and made for myself a green bean/ground meat dish using 5 spice as a flavouring agent. Of course if anyone is familiar with the Chinatown cooking of Toronto vs. Montreal the use of 5 spice is definitely evident in the Montreal version of crispy skin roast pork...at least you can get it up to 5 years ago. But alas, more and more restaurants are bowing to the more refined tastes of the newer immigrants :angry: Toysaanese are fast disappearing from the restaurant sector.

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Centuries ago, when I was a young man, I worked in London’s Leicester Square. My office backed onto Chinatown and, every day, by 10 am I would be dribbling and frothing and salivating at the smells emanating from the back windows of the restaurants.

Now, I’m not saying that the restaurants in London’s Chinatown are good. A few are. Most are execrable. But they sure know how to lay on a smell.

So, when I first came to China, I expected to find the same smell. No! Zilch! China smells nothing like Chinatown.

Then I went to Hong Kong for the first time. Before we pretended to hand it back! That smells like Chinatown.

So, then I started to think about the source of the smell. What is it? After many sniffings, I decided it’s Five Spice Powder. It seems to be more popular there than anywhere else. Of course, it originates in Sichuan, but even there isn’t used that much.

I grew up in Hong Kong, have been to London Chinatown and been to a few major cities in Mainland China. I think I can relate to what you were saying (or "smelling"). I suspect that particular "Hong Kong" smell, or "London Chinatown" smell, was probably the smell from the Cantonese style wonton noodle houses. In Hong Kong, there is, figure-of-speechly, one around every corner. Well... at least more than banks or MacDonald's or Starbucks combined. Almost invariably in every wonton noodle house there would be a cauldron of beef organs (beef briskets, stomach, intestines, lung, etc.). (Though I suspect in London or USA you can only find a subset of these organ varieties.). They use five spices in the bubbling broth to simmer the beef organs.

Now... that's Cantonese style. When I travelled through other Mainland China cities, such as Beijing/Shanghai/Nanjin/Guilin/Dalian/Shenyang/Tienjing/Tsingdao/Hengzhou, etc.. I have not seen a cauldron of beef organs in bubbly broth like those in Hong Kong. Perhaps that explained the difference?

Indeed, I think the five spices (or maybe six, seven, or more) used vary from restaurants to restaurants and from chefs to chefs. But you can almost trace them to those originated from India. :laugh:

I just did a quick and highly unscientific poll of all my Chinese friends who happen to be online. 13 of them. Only one could find Five Spice Powder in her kitchen. And she is from Hong Kong! Said it has been there for years.

My local convenience store doesn’t carry it, but it is sometimes available in the larger supermarkets.

Well... this doesn't say much. Five spices are not usually used for cooking at home except for braising dishes. A good portion of the households in Hong Kong may do stir-fried dishes at home all their lives without using five spices directly. [That includes my father and my two brothers.] But if they eat out in restaurants, many items are cooked with five spices.

In the Chinese language, dishes that are cooked with five spices may be crowned by other names than "five spices". For example:

Hung shiu 红烧

Lo shui 卤水

Ng Heung 五香

(These are all Cantonese pronounciation)

Cantonese BBQ items: the roast pork, the roast ducks, the Cantonese-Fried Chicken 炸子鸡... all use some versions of five spices in marinating the cavities.

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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I find that homemade five-spice powder tastes significantly fresher, stronger, and better compared with store-bought. I usually roast the Sichuan peppercorns and grind with an equal weight of cloves, fennel, star anise, and cassia cinnamon.

I may try Pim’s recipe next time I need a batch.

Last visit to Penzey’s I mentioned that their five-spice powder lacks Sichuan peppercorns. The store employee seemed interested and called headquarters, but according to the web site Penzey's has not changed their five-spice mixture.

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I think relatively few Chinese home cooks use 5 spice powder because it's most often used in spice rubs for roasted meats which were not commonly prepared in homes as most of them lacked ovens. For braised dishes which contain 5 spice powder components most Chinese cooks would prefer to use whole spices instead.

Edited by sheetz (log)
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Last visit to Penzey’s I mentioned that their five-spice powder lacks Sichuan peppercorns. The store employee seemed interested and called headquarters, but according to the web site Penzey's has not changed their five-spice mixture.

My bottle from Taiwan lists fennel seed, star anise, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. There are obviously many recipes for this seasoning blend.

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At all my Asian groceries (in Montreal) I see Szechuan peppercorn labelled as 'prickly ash'... if that helps anybody trying to find it...

edit to add: LINKPrickly Ash / Szechuan peppercorn

Ah ha!! That's it... there were tons of bottles labeled "prickly ash" at the market, but since I didn't know the correct Chinese character (at the time! thanks for the assist above!) I didn't buy it because I didn't realize it was the same thing.

I can certainly understand not many people making "five spice powder" from scratch: an analogy in the U.S. might be chile powder: most people buy pre-ground (myself included most of the time) even though making it fresh from toasted, dried chiles tastes way better. It is interesting, though, that it does not really seem to figure into Chinese home cooking, when in the "Western" world it is closely tied to what we think of as "Chinese" cuisine.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Last visit to Penzey’s I mentioned that their five-spice powder lacks Sichuan peppercorns. The store employee seemed interested and called headquarters, but according to the web site Penzey's has not changed their five-spice mixture.

My bottle from Taiwan lists fennel seed, star anise, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. There are obviously many recipes for this seasoning blend.

Agreed, variation abounds.

I conducted an exhaustive survey on the subject (OK, I checked all of my Chinese and Vietnamese cookbooks), and found that a "typical" five-spice powder includes Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cassia cinnamon, cloves, and fennel. Other spices may be used as additions or substitutes, but those five ingredients showed up most frequently.

I suspect that the U.S. ban on importing Sichuan peppercorns affected the formulation of many five-spice powders sold here. Heat-treated Sichuan peppercorns are now available online from The Spice House and Penzey's. I have ordered Sichuan peppercorns from Penzey’s and found them much fresher compared with those found in local Asian markets.

Note: my “exhaustive survey” included Fuchsia Dunlop, Barbara Tropp, Grace Young, Andrea Nguyen, Alford and Duiguid, and Mai Pham. I would be quite interested to hear what other cookbook authors have written on the subject.

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      Rinse the black beans and drain. Crush them with the blade of your knife, then chop finely. Finely chop the garlic.

      Stir fry the meat in a tablespoon of oil over a high heat until done. This should take less than a minute. Remove and set aside.

      Add another tablespoon of oil and reduce heat to medium. fry the garlic and black beans until fragrant then add the bitter melon. Continue frying until the melon softens. then add a tablespoon of Shaoxing wine and soy sauces. Finally sprinkle on white pepper to taste along with a splash of sesame oil. Return the meat to the pan and mix everything well.

      Note: If you prefer the dish more saucy, you can add a tablespoon or so of water with the soy sauces.

      Serve with plained rice and a stir-fried green vegetable of choice.
       
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