Five Reasons to Love and Use Chinese 5 Spice Powder!

Main Course / February 5, 2016

Isn’t that a gorgeous dish? YUMMMM. A little 5 spice powder and some other Asian ingredients and you are set. But what the heck is 5 Spice Powder?

For the average nose, the whiff from a container of 5 Spice Powder is pleasantly overwhelming. So many exotic aromas coming at you all at once. But that’s what’s so cool about it! And also, what makes cooking with it kind of daunting. Never fear! I have 5 reasons that will make you grab for the bottle and the spatula. Get ready to count with me:

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Reason One – The perfect balance of flavors — Okay, so if I began this blog by telling you to amass Whole Star Anise, Cinnamon Sticks, Cloves, Whole Dried Fennel and  Szechwan Peppercorn, and then grind them to powder, you would have left the room and been on your way to Wendy’s before I could say Chop Suey. This is about trust; about understanding that having all these flavors together conjures up a much different experience than if you tried to blend them alone. Go with it, trust it, experiment. You will love how they taste in your finished dish without any of the flavors being over-pronounced.

Reason Two – Asian flavors go with everything! – This medley of spices has gone far beyond just Chinese cooking. In Hawaii they place a shaker of it on the table. It goes with almost any poultry or game meat. It bridges the gap and creates layers of flavor. Case in point. By adding it to ground turkey (what could be more American!) you elevate a texture and a protein to Ming Dynasty status. Well, maybe not Ming, but you’ll be searching for chop sticks in no time.

Reason Three – It is very versatile! – Try this, take kosher salt and an equal amount of 5 spice powder and spread on a cookie sheet. Toast in a 400 degree F oven for about 10 minutes. The flavors will meld beautifully and you will have a seasoning salt that will rock your world.

Reason Four – Fool Your Friends – Unless you only dine with Foodies, it might be fun to have people guess the flavors in 5 Spice Powder. Only a few will detect the licorice-like flavor of fennel, but most will never really taste the cinnamon. A testament to why cinnamon has been around FOR. EV. ER. (And you thought it was just for breakfast!)

And Reason Five – So you can make my Chinese 5 Spice Turkey Meatballs with Sweet and Sour Sauce!!!!

You were expecting me to miss an opportunity for shameful self-promotion?


Chinese 5 Spice Turkey Meatballs with Sweet and Sour Sauce

Serves 4 – 6


Ingredients:

1 lb ground turkey
1 ½ t Chinese 5 spice powder
1 T soy sauce
½ T fish sauce
2 t sesame oil
1/3 C red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ C plain bread crumbs
1/8 C milk
1 egg
Salt and pepper
1 red pepper
1 20 oz can pineapple chunks in pineapple juice (reserve juice!)
1/3 C sweet red wine
2 large carrots, chopped
1/3 C red wine
1 t Cornstarch
2 T oil
½ C salted cashews
Handful fresh parsley
Sesame seeds to garnish
Salt and pepper


Method:

  • Bring meat to room temperature. Prep and chop all the vegetables, chopping the onion very small to put in the meatballs. Set aside carrots and red pepper. Drain the pineapple reserving all the juice.
  •  In a bowl combine the meat, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, egg, milk, 5 Spice powder, soy sauce, fish sauce and sesame oil, along with a bit of kosher salt and black pepper. For into 1 ½ inch balls. Fry them in the hot oil until seared but not all the way done. Remove, set aside and cover with foil.
  • Then, using the same pan you cooked the meatballs, add the carrots and red pepper and scrape bits into the veggies. Sear in the remaining oil for about 2 minutes. Add the pineapple juice and red wine, reduce for about 3-4 minutes. Add the pineapple chunks. Now, reduce heat, add the meat, and let the meat simmer with the lid on for about 4 minutes until cooked all the way through. Then combine about ¼ C water with the cornstarch, stir to blend well, and add that to the juice and veggie mixture. Stir until thick which takes about 10 seconds, so keep the heat manageable. Add the parsley and the cashews, stir, then plate. Can serve with or without white rice. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.


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