The classic Chinese five spice recipe includes Szechuan pepper, cinnamon, fennel, star anise and cloves.
Contrary to popular belief, Chinese five spice is not named after the five spices it contains. Instead, it takes it name from the five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. Also know as the ‘Wonder Powder’, five spice utilises three of the six Ayurveda tastes flavours: sweet, bitter and pungent. (The Ayurvedic taste flavours salty, sour and astringent, are not included). The addition of five spice helps to optimise flavours and digestion, preventing any discomfort after eating. It also imparts the nutritional benefits of the spices it contains.
Szechuan Pepper (Pungent Taste)
The pungent taste is promoted through stimulatory components, such as capsaicin in chilli peppers. This creates a feeling of heat which helps to boost the digestive system. Szechuan pepper is also a rich source of vitamins, such as vitamin A, carotenes, and pyridoxine, as well as minerals like potassium, copper, and iron, a vital substance in haemoglobin that carries the oxygen within red blood vessels.
Cinnamon, Star Anise & Fennel (Sweet Taste)
The sweet taste nourishes components of the body that are usually high in minerals. It is anabolic in action (meaning it influences muscle and tissue gain) and promotes both enzyme and pancreatic activity. Cinnamon contains antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects, helping to lower your risk of disease. Its properties can also reduce blood sugar levels, as well as a mimic insulin for a powerful anti-diabetic effect.
Fennel seeds, meanwhile, have a rich antioxidant content strengthening the immune system. This includes potassium, folate, vitamin C and vitamin B-6. With its significant amount of fibre and lack of cholesterol, fennel also helps reduce the risk of heart disease.
Star anise provides essential minerals like iron, manganese and calcium. Some studies suggest star anise is high in antioxidants, helping prevent chronic disease by reducing inflammation. The main compound in Star Anise is Shikimic acid which was used in the production of the drug Tamiflu (also called Oseltamivir), used to produce an antiviral medicine against Bird Flu or H5N1.
Cinnamon also contains a pungent taste, which makes it excellent for pacifying Vata.
Fennel contains a bitter and pungent tastes too, which makes is excellent for pacifying Vata and Pitta.
Cloves (Bitter Taste)
The bitter taste promotes bile secretion, critical for the digestion and absorption of both fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Research has even found it helps prevent cancer through high isothiocyanate.
Meanwhile, cloves boast antioxidant, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory benefits. It provides high levels of vitamin A and is also know to improve digestion through boosting the production of digestive enzymes.
Cloves also dominate in the pungent taste and can be very heating, so they are best for pacifying Vata and Kapha.
If you want a recipe which utilises five spice, look no further than my Chinese Five Spice Noodles.
For this recipe, I wanted to give the tofu a gentle touch; therefore, I substituted cloves for turmeric. While turmeric is bitter, it is less pungent and helps to balance the rest of the spice blend. I also used regular ground black pepper in place of Szechuan pepper.
Click the link to read the recipe for yourself: https://eatandbreathe.com/5-spice-noodles-recipe/