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Monday, August 3, 2009

Ancient Chinese Secret Ingredient: 5-Spice Powder

Wow - I'm hooked! I am in love with Chinese Five-Spice Powder. It has always been one of those spices I've longed for but never been able to find in the store. Trader Joe's had it and naturally, I purchased it! Here is what Wikipedia had to say about it:

Five-spice powder is a mixture of five spices[1][2] used in Chinese cuisine. One common recipe includes tunghing or "Chinese cinnamon" (also known as rougui, the ground bark of the cassia tree, a close relative of true cinnamon), powdered cassia buds, powdered star anise and anise seed, ginger root, and ground cloves. Another recipe for the powder consists of huajiao (Sichuan pepper), bajiao (star anise), rougui (cassia), cloves, and fennel seeds. It is used in most recipes for Cantonese roasted duck, as well as beef stew. It is also used as a marinade for Vietnamese broiled chicken. The five-spice powder mixture has followed the Chinese diaspora and has been incorporated into other national cuisines throughout Asia.

The formulae are based on the Chinese philosophy of balancing the yin and yang in food.

Although this spice is used in restaurant cooking, many Chinese households do not use it in day-to-day cooking. In Hawaii, some restaurants have it on the table.

A versatile seasoned salt can be easily made by stir-frying common salt with Five-spice powder under low heat in a dry pan until the spice and salt are well mixed.

Tonight's dinner was a mixture of packaged/prepared and homemade foods. I've probably mentioned that I've fallen in love with Trader Joe's and they have the most unbelievable mini chicken wontons that are frozen. All you do is pan fry them for about 4-5 minutes and then steam them in the same pan for 2 minutes. Unreal! But it's the sesame noodle dish I made that blew me away. I'm not a peanut fan - don't really care for the taste - but sometimes I enjoy it, as long as it's mixed with other things. This tasted so authentic that my husband actually suggested it was as good as anything he'd had in a restaurant! I choose to believe him!

Sesame Noodles
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 garlic clove
1 Tbsp. Sesame Oil
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. Chinese Five-Spice Powder
1 lb. spaghetti
2/3 cup match-stick carrots
1 scallion, minced
1/4 cup mixed black and white sesame seeds

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook spaghetti according to directions. Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine soy sauce, oil, garlic, ginger, peanut butter, and Five-Spice Powder and puree about 30 seconds. Set aside.

Drain pasta and allow it to cool about 5 minutes before putting it into a large mixing bowl. Pour soy sauce mixture over the pasta and toss until spaghetti is well coated. Add the carrots, scallion and seeds. Toss and serve.

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