Five Spice Powder

by Trans Chef
Five Spice Powder

If you’ve eaten Asian food there’s a good chance you’ve had 5 spice powder (wǔxiāng fěn, 五香粉, Pong Palo). Especially if you’ve had dishes with fatty meats, braised dishes or many stir-fried noodle dishes. It offers a deep, rich flavor that helps cut through the fat and I’ve heard it said “it brings harmony to chaos”. (Sadly I don’t remember where I heard the reference.)

The history of five spice powder is rather interesting, although murky and mysterious. The truth is no one is 100% sure when five spice powder was created, but it’s been traced back as far as fourth century BCE where it was used in Chinese medicine because it was seen as a perfect combination of all five flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy.

Also, depending on the recipe you use, five spice powder often has more, or less, than 5 spices. For example, in southern China they’ll sometimes add Mandarin orange peel. Some recipes use white as well as black pepper, some only use Szechuan peppercorns and many even add powdered ginger. The flexibility of the spice can sometimes vary city to city, reign to reign, but there are a base group of spices that are always a “must include”… cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns, star anise, fennel seeds and cloves.

But again, this seems to vary based on country. For example, the wonderfully talented (and beautiful) Pailin Chongchitnant from Hot Thai Kitchen says “5 is just a guideline. Even the ones you buy from the grocery store don’t always have 5 spices in them.” She also says when making Pong Palo (5 spice powder) it must have cinnamon and star anise, but the rest are optional.”

Finally, one of the niftiest things about five spice powder is it’s not just for Asian food. It’s also wonderful in BBQ sauces, fruit/meat pies and on the grill. So stock up and explore the wonderful world of five spice powder!

Did You Make This Recipe?
How you went with my recipes? Tag me on Instagram at @transchef.

You may also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy