Five Spice

December 1, 2010

I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
~George Bernard Shaw

An underused classic, five spice (五香粉) is intended to coalesce and balance an array of elemental flavors: sweet, sour, pungent, bitter, and salty. It need not be confined solely to Chinese cookery but can be integrated across the board. Fear not, as the blend does not have to be absolutely precise, freeing you to concoct your own favored ratios.

A word to the wise. Using stale spices to meld this mix may bring unrelenting reproach from the kitchen gods.

Fresh five spice should be used prudently as it can be uniquely pungent and intense. Just add in moderation and taste frequently, keeping the palates of your table dwellers in mind. A pinch goes far.


2 T fennel seeds
2 T whole cloves
2 T whole Szechuan (Sijuan) peppercorns
12 star anise pods
5 cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces

Toast spices in a heavy, medium large skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until aromas are just released. Do not brown or burn. Allow to cool. Combine all spices in mortar and pestle or spice grinder and pulse until mixture resembles somewhat coarse black pepper.

Store in an airtight jar in a cool dry place.