What goes into Chinese Five-Spice Powder that gives it its distinctive flavor. Can I make it at home?-- Bette
Five spice powder may be made from a variety of spices, and sometimes more than five of them. The basic, common ingredients that give five-spice powder its distinctive flavor are star anise, and either fennel or anise seeds. All three of these ingredients have a licorice taste. Added to that are Szechuan peppercorns, and typically cinnamon and cloves. All five ingredients are used in equal measure and ground together. Also included sometimes are ginger and cardamom.
To make it at home, either combine ground ingredients or, for a stronger more complex favor, use whole ingredients and grind them using a coffee grinder. I have a Krups Coffee Grinder that I only use for grinding spices.
You can play around with different ratios until you find the blend that pleases you most, but remember that if you make five-spice powder from whole ingredients it may be a lot stronger than you are used to. When cooking with it, start with about half the amount you usually use and taste the result. Adjust accordingly.
If you don't have Szechuan peppercorns, you can use black peppercorns.