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Chinese Five-Spice powder is a finely ground mixture of star anise, Szechuan pepper, fennel, cloves and cinnamon. It is used in red-cooking (cooking in soy sauce) and to season roast meat and poultry. The number in Five-spice powder is of great significance, possessing symbolic power according to ancient Chinese lore. It was and still is thought, even believed, that the universe is composed of five elements: earth, wood, fire, metal and water. The harmonious blending of elements was emphasized in this philosophy and great care had to be taken when mixing them. These kinds of thoughts became incorporated into the daily way of Chinese thinking; one result is five-spice powder.

Five-Spice powder is often used on pork, fish, duck and chicken as a dry rub or as a primary flavoring in a soy sauce based marinade.

Flavors in Chinese Five-Spice Powder:
Star Anise:

Star anise has a taste similar to licorice, with a more bitter undertone. This is the dominating flavor of Five-Spice powder.

Szechuan Peppercorns:

Not a pepper at all, but a reddish brown berry that comes from the prickly ash bush. Szechuan peppercorn has a truly unique woodsy taste. The first sensation from this aromatic spice is a peppery (spicy) taste that quickly numbs the tongue. Soon, you'll pick up hints of anise and ginger, gradually becoming lemony (sour), salty and hot.


Fennel is similar to anise but sweeter and less pungent, without so much of a licorice taste.


Cloves have a pungent, sweet flavor, camphor like and faintly peppery.

Cinnamon, said to be among the oldest spices, is perfumed and sweet. But unlike sugar it has a spicy undertone flavor. It has been regarded as an aphrodisiac.

Five-spice powder can be used as a substitute in Western recipes calling for cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, or any combination of those spices. Use Five-spice powder as an ingredient in hearty stews such as in pork chops and prunes; as a substitute for cinnamon in carrot cake, pumpkin pie…… Five-spice powder is delicious on vegetables such as in a glaze mixed with butter for carrots or sweet potatoes. Create a seasoned salt with five-spice powder for french fries,….. Stir fried vegetables are greatly enhanced buy the addition of about a teaspoon of the spice blend, sprinkled over them during cooking.  Note: use Five-Spice powder sparingly since the flavors are intense.

                              Chinese Five-Spice Spareribs
These delicious ribs can be marinated in a dry rub of Chinese Five-Spice powder or a soy sauce based marinade flavored with the Five-Spice powder. They can be barbecued over coals or baked in the oven. However, the special barbecue rack technique of hanging the ribs in the oven produces outstanding results. I strongly recommend trying this method. The ribs cook quickly and are very tender. Handling the ribs are a bit awkward. Use long barbecue gloves, be careful not to burn yourself. I prefer using baby back ribs since they are more meaty and less fatty. But spareribs work very well also. You will need about ¾ to 1 pound of ribs per person if this is a one main dish meal. In Chinese meals, which have many main dishes, one pound of ribs will serve 3 or 4 people.

To prepare: Leave the rib rack whole or cut in two. Trim off fat and gristle. I prefer to peal the membrane off the back of the ribs, but it can be left on. With a sharp knife, cut between each rib but not clear through. This will enable the marinade to penetrate the meat. Use one of the following marinades.

Five-Spice Dry Rub:
1. Cut a clove of garlic in two, rub cut surface over ribs.
2. Rub Five-spice powder over meat. Allow 1 teaspoon Five-Spice powder
       per  pound  of meat. Let stand 1 hour, sprinkle with salt, then roast. 

Five-Spice Soy Sauce Marinade for 1 rack:
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Tablespoon minced ginger root
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons CuisineMentor Chinese Five-Spice Powder
2 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
Combine all ingredients. Rub mixture over ribs. Let stand 1 hour, then roast.

Barbecue Rack:
Buy 8 to 10 metal S-shaped hooks or metal shower curtain hooks. These can be found at any large supermarket or discount store. Hook one end of each hook onto the crossbar of the oven shelf, the other onto the ribs. Set the shelf as high as possible in the oven. Place a large pan of water on the floor of the oven to catch the drippings and prevent burning. Replenish the water from time to time. The hanging ribs should not touch the water. Adjust the hooks if necessary.
To roast rib rack in oven:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Suspend the ribs high in the oven over the drip pan. Roast about 45 minutes or until fully cooked. If using the soy marinade, brush with excess marinate during roasting. Ovens vary, be careful not to burn. Cut ribs into serving pieces and enjoy!
Variations: There are countless variations. Add cayenne and brown sugar to dry rub. 
                   Instead of rice wine use pineapple juice.  
                   Make with chicken, roast in pan. Adjust baking time.

Chinese Five-Spice Pepper Steak

2 Tablespoons oil
1 1/2 pounds beef sirloin thinly sliced in ¼ inch slices (try freezing 15 minutes to ease slicing)
2 green bell peppers, seeded and sliced ¼ inch thick
1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/2 cup Chinese rice wine or dry cooking sherry
2 Tablespoons soy sauce         

2 cups beef broth or stock

2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoon CuisineMentor Chinese Five-Spice Powder

  Black pepper to taste
                                                         3 green onions, thinly sliced on an angle, for garnish
                                                         1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts such as roasted cashews, almonds, or peanuts

                                                                      Cooked Steamed Rice

Heat a wok or large pan over high heat. Add oil and half the meat. Stir-fry meat 3 minutes and remove from pan. Stir-fry remaining meat. Remove from pan.

Heat wok and add peppers and onions. Stir-fry 2 minutes.

Add meat back to the pan with peppers and onions. Add rice wine or sherry and stir fry until liquid almost evaporates, about 1 minute. Add soy sauce to the pan.

Dissolve cornstarch with a ¼ cup of the beef broth. Add beef broth to the pan, then add cornstarch combined with broth, the Five-Spice powder and black pepper. Stir sauce until it thickens. Adjust seasonings. Add more soy sauce if necessary.

Remove to serving bowl. Garnish with sliced scallions and chopped nuts. Serve with steamed rice. Serves 6.

Variations: Use pork tenderloin or chicken in place of beef.
                 Add mushrooms.
                 Replace green peppers with red, yellow or orange peppers.

Five-Spice Tofu with Vegetables

1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
8  ounces extra firm tofu
3 Tablespoons soy sauce (divided)
2 teaspoon CuisineMentor Chinese Five-Spice Powder (divided)  
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons olive oil
                                                                 2 green or red peppers, cut in ¼” strips
                                                                 1 oriental eggplant, sliced ½”crosswise
                                                                 2 medium carrots, sliced thinly diagonally
                                                                 8 green onions, chopped (1/4 cup)
                                                                 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
                                                                 4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger                                                                   

                                                                 3/4 teaspoon chili paste with garlic or crushed red pepper
                                                                 1 star anise, whole

In small bowl, combine the shiitakes and hot water to cover. Let stand until softened, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the tofu and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 3/4-inch cubes; pat dry again. In medium bowl mix 1 Tablespoon soy sauce and 1 teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice powder; add tofu and toss gently to coat. Cover and set in refrigerator.

In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch and 1 Tablespoon cold water; set aside. Remove softened shitakes from soaking water. Let soaking liquid settle. Pour soaking liquid carefully into a medium bowl discarding the debris at bottom. Into same bowl, stir in broth, brown sugar and remaining 2 Tablespoons soy sauce. Set aside. Trim and discard shitake stems (They are very tough!); slice caps and set aside.

In large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add tofu mixture and cook, shaking pan and tossing tofu, until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to plate and set aside.

In same skillet, heat remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir fry green peppers, eggplant and carrots for 1 minute. Add scallions, garlic, ginger, chili paste, star anise, 1 teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice powder and reserved shiitakes. Stir-fry until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add reserved broth mixture; bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes until vegetables are crisp-soft. Stir cornstarch mixture and add to skillet; cook, stirring, until liquid has thickened, about 30 seconds. Add reserved tofu and toss gently to coat and reheat. Discard star anise.

Serve with steamed rice. Serves 4.

  This is a family favorite. Serve with rice or mash potatoes.

Five-Spice Pork Chops with Prunes

4 Pork Chops, about ½” thick
   olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 teaspoon CuisineMentor Chinese Five-Spice Powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
                                                                    1 clove garlic, minced
                                                                    3/4 cup beef or chicken broth
                                                                    1 Tablespoon soy sauce
                                                                    1 Tablespoon Worcestershire  
                                                                    12 pitted prunes
                                                                    1 Tablespoon flour blended with ¼ cup cold water
                                                                       Lemon wedges

Score edges of pork chops. In a large skillet that has a tight cover, lightly coat bottom with oil, and brown the chops on both sides. Add onions and sauté until lightly browned. Add the  Five-Spice Powder, brown sugar, garlic, broth, soy sauce and Worcestershire. Stir.

Place prunes on top of chops, cover, and simmer very slowly for about 30 minutes, or until chops are tender.

Remove chops and prunes. Stir in flour paste into gravy and bring to boil, cook stirring until thickened. Add back chops and prunes and reheat. Serve with lemon wedges. Serves 4.

Variations: Use apricots instead of prunes.

Can be doubled easily. Reheats very well.

                                                                          Spice Cake

This is a moist cake. Delicious, kids love it also!

1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon CuisineMentor Chinese Five-Spice Powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup applesauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped, toasted nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pecans and/or raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, five-spice powder, soda and salt. Add applesauce, oil and egg. With electric mixer at lowest speed, mix until dry ingredients are just moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes. Stir in nuts or raisins and pour into greased and floured 8x8x2-inch baking dish. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Turn out on rack and cool completely. Frost with Five-Spice Cream Cheese Frosting.

Five-Spice Cream Cheese Frosting

2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 (3-oz.) pkg. Lite cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 teaspoon applesauce or apple juice or vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon CuisineMentor Chinese Five-Spice Powder

Place all ingredients in large bowl. With electric mixer at lowest speed, mix to combine, about 30 seconds. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes until frosting is creamy and smooth