Chinese Spices



Chinese Spices

In Chinese cooking, spices are used to add flavour, aroma and heat to stir-fries, soups and stews. Have you ever wondered about the difference between five-spice and Sichuan peppercorns? Or what makes white pepper different to black pepper? This introductory guide to Chinese spices is a great place to start. Read on to learn more about these popular Chinese spices.

Common Chinese Spices

  1. Sichuan peppercorns - Sichuan pepper is a spice from the Sichuan province in China. It has a reddish-brown colour and a spicy flavour with a hint of citrus. Used ground and whole in Chinese cooking, it triggers a reaction called Ma La or 'numbing spicy'. This addictive tingly heat is present in many hot and cold Sichuan dishes, from fiery hot pots to 'saliva chicken' (cold chicken in chilli oil).
  2. Five-spice powder - Five spice is a mix of ground star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds and ground ginger. The blend incorporates all five elements of Chinese cooking: bitter, sweet, pungent, salty and sour into a single spice mix.
  3. Star anise - Star anise is the fruit of a small evergreen tree native to southern China, Taiwan and northern Indochina. The spice derives its name from the fact that each fruit resembles a star shape. Star anise has a strong anise flavour that is both sweet and spicy. In China, it is often used in slow-cooked stews and braised dishes with pork or beef.
  4. Cinnamon - Unlike in a lot of Western cuisine, cinnamon is often used as a savoury spice in Chinese cuisine. It is also known as cassia. Cinnamon has a sweet, woody flavour and a pepper, slightly smoky aroma. Like star anise, it is often used in stewed and braised meat dishes.
  5. White pepper - White pepper is more floral and less aromatic than black pepper. It is often used in Chinese soups, stir-fries and marinades.

Ready to start cooking? Discover our Chinese recipe collection and use Chinese spices in dishes like kung po tofu and Fuschia Dunlop's Shanghai red-braised pork.