The five spices — cinnamon, cloves, star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, and either fennel seed or ginger — are employed based on the Chinese philosophy of balancing the yin and yang in food. The number five associates with healing properties in Chinese Culture. This ideology of the five spice blend has been implemented both in the Chinese and Taiwanese cultures and has also considered in other cultures in Asia. The powder is used to flavor dishes from Cantonese roasted duck to beef stew.
What does it taste like?
The flavor of this spice is described as having a distinct licorice-like flavor due to the star anise. It also has a sweet/warm flavor from cinnamon and fennel. The cloves add a sensation of cooling in the mouth while the Schezuan peppercorns add a kick to the spice.
Each ingredient in the blend has its part to play and especially in more detail.
The Cinnamon is the “sweet” part of the blend. Unlike sugar, the cinnamon has a hint of spice to it. Many five-spice blends in the Chinese Cuisines do call for cinnamon or cassia which is a cousin to cinnamon.
The Schezuan peppercorn part of the blend is not a spice. It’s a berry that’s a reddish-brown that comes from the ash bush. It’s the fiery part of the blend that gives it the right kick for many traditional Chinese dishes.
The Ground Cloves of the blend has a sweet flavor. Star Annise is another component but it isn’t as sweet. Fennel is another sweet component, except for not having the licorice-tasting component.
Try the Chinese Five Spice
Usually, when using the five-spice blend in different dishes, it is used sparingly due to the strong flavoring/spices it contains. One example of it being used in a traditional Chinese dish would be the five flower pork. This is a traditional dish using pork belly, marinating it in the five-spice blend, then steaming it along with other vegetables and seasonings.
Try our blend here.