Spice mixes are common in India. We’ve got a special mix for almost everything – Pav Bhaji Masala, Chole Masala, Sambar Powder, Rasam Powder and of course, Garam Masala. Switch any of these around and you can get a weird sambhar tasting pav bhaji – that’s the power of spice blends! Five spice powder is a staple in Asian households and the wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can use common spices to make a unique spice blend.
The Theory of the five elements
While the five elements of nature are Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Space, The Taostic theory of the Five Elements names Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water as the five elements. The theory states that all substances of the material world are made of these five elements. When it comes to Chinese 5 spice, the five flavour profiles – Sweet, Bitter, Sour, Salty and Savoury are said to be a reflection of the five elements. They’re also the eponymous 5 in the name of the spice mix. It speaks to the idea that much like the balance the elements maintain in the natural world, the five spices we use in this recipe come together to make a harmonious mix with balanced flavours. The 5 in the name of the spice mix actually refers to the 5 elements of food, not the spices used to make it which is why you’ll find recipes that include more than 5 spices.
I usually make most of my spice mixes in my small mixer jar but there’s no denying that it’s time consuming. I have to repeatedly open it up, scrape the sides down and go again till I get my desired texture. This means that I have to stand right at my mixer the whole time until I’m done. Everything changed when I got my hands on the Nutri-blend Smart though! Now I can just turn my mixer on and walk away because the Nutri-blend Smart is going to do all the heavy lifting for me! It’s got audio visual cues that alert you to the start and end of programs so even if I’m not in the kitchen I can tell when my mixer has done its job! I also love the suction feet of the mixer. It’s strong enough to hold it in place while in use but not overly so which allows me to move it around easily.
The first thing I love about it? The transparent jars. Being able to see your spices blend is a big advantage to any home chef. You can see what consistency your mix is at and it takes all the guesswork out of the equation. Beyond the transparent jars, one of the Nutri-blend’s main features is its pre-loaded programs. 30 sec chutney, 45 seconds dry grind and 60 sec smoothie. The programs haven’t let me down yet and I’ve tried a whole bunch of recipes on this fantastic little machine. When it comes to dry grinding, the double pulse technology employed by the Nutri-blend Smart, involves intermittent pauses of 2 seconds after every 4 seconds of operation. This allows the spices to reposition themselves onto the blades instead of adhering to the sides of the jar as in most regular mixers.
Sichuan Peppercorns vs regular peppercorns
Sichuan peppercorns have a unique flavour with floral and citrus notes that aren’t present in regular peppercorns. While they’re easily available online, if you can’t get your hands on them, you can substitute them for regular peppercorns. However, keep in mind that the flavour and overall experience of the dish will be different. Sichuan peppercorns have a distinct flavour that’s crucial to this recipe but you will still end up with a great spice blend if you use regular peppercorn.
Be sure to take your time to toast the spices. Toasting helps to release the essential oils and compounds in the spice which intensify their flavour and aroma. Toasting also gets rid of any moisture content, making the spices drier and easier to grind. It’s a few minutes but it makes a marked difference.
How to use Chinese 5 spice powder
The powder is pretty potent so be judicious in your use of it. The spice mix works well in a multitude of ways
- Use it as a dry rub for chicken, pork and seafood.
- Add some to your vegetable stir fries to impart more flavour.
- Any breading, tempura batter or flour mixture used to deep fry ingredients can be elevated with this spice mix.
- You can also use the spice mix in cakes for a unique, savoury twist.
- Use it to add depth and flavour to soups and stews
- You can use this spice mix to make several Asian inspired dressings for salads.
Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 3 tbsp powder
10g Star Anise
5g Cinnamon 1 stick
15g Sichuan Peppercorns (1 tbsp)
5g Fennel (2 tsp)
5g Clove (2 tsp)
- Toast each of the spices individually on low heat- 3 minutes for the star anise, 2 minutes each for the cinnamon, sichuan peppercorns and cloves. Toast the fennel on low heat for 1 minute, then turn the heat off and continue to toast for a further minute until fragrant.
- While toasting the spices be sure to stir them frequently to prevent burning. A good rule of thumb is to toast until the spices are fragrant, the times given are a general guideline.
- Once the spices are toasted, allow them to cool completely.
- Add the spices to the Nutriblend Smart Grinding Jar and press the dry grind mode.
- Allow the Nb Smart to do its thing for 45 seconds!
- Transfer the spice mix into an airtight container and store in a dry, dark place until you use it.