Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Wonder Meals and Wonderful Five Spice Powder

I am going to write about five spice powder which is to me is the wonder powder of Chinese cuisine, and of course Foochow cuisine. And in separate postings I will write about each of the five spices which make up this wonderful concoction.

Five spice powder is the most important ingredient in the great dishes of Pa Lo duck, crispy roasted duck, chicken and pork, meat rolls, and other lesser dishes. To me Five Spice Powder is part of my mother's good cooking. Catching of whiff of it is imagining my mum cooking in the kitchen and soon a wonderful meal would be on the table. It was so much a part of my childhood.

We moved from Pulau Kerto, our Hua Hong Ice Factory site,to Grand Father's eight room - double storeyed house on Kong Ping Road in 1955. I was to start Primary One and my sister, Kindergarten. I could not exactly remember the actual moving but I remember an interesting incident: my mother was very particular that we should not forget the galvanized wash basin. She made sure that it was on top of all the things we moved to Sibu town.

We also moved the stone mill which was placed in a nice corner at our new home and it remained there until we moved out more than twenty years later. Mum still keeps the stone mill, an heirloom, from great grandfather.

After moving into this new home, I began to realise that my parents liked good food and one interesting ingredient they used a lot of was the five spice powder. And I believe it was my father who would walk down to the Chinese medical stores, Poh Nguan or Hui Choon to buy the powder each time they wanted to cook a Loo Ark (Pot Roast Duck) or Loo Nuik (Pot Roast Pork).

We did not have these two dishes all the time. We had them for the four festivals and birthdays. I suppose five spice powder was the favourite flavour of our family. So we grew up with a lot of loo ark (Five spice Duck) and loo long (Five Spice Eggs).

I cannot remember if Grandfather ever stayed for lunch (I remember he would always go home for lunch as a dutiful husband) His visit was always a short one if he came to visit. Grandfather's birthday was always celebrated in his Sungei Merah House. And when visitors and relatives came from outside Sibu we would go to a restaurant, which was either Lok Huong or Hock Chu Lieu. We would always have sharks' fin and loo ark besides the other important dishes.

Perhaps because of all these, my mother was always very careful that she should buy the best of five spice powder. So she would only recommend the powder from these two shops. You have to decide for yourself which is the best actually. Because the composition of the five spice powder depends very much on the person who makes it in the chinese medicine shop. Some are sweeter, some are more bitter.

Today you can also buy Chinese Five-Spice Powder your local supermarket but if you are more adventurous, you can make it yourself.

Extra Notes from Wikipedia : The five basics for Chinese cooking are blended into Chinese Five Spice Powder-sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty. While this may sound like an odd mixture, the tastes compliment each other and when combined they make a wonderful blend. The blend is based on the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang and it contains star anise, fennel, cloves, cinnamon, and Szechwan pepper. Some blends have ginger and cardamom added, and other times they are simply added into the recipes using the five spice powder. Star anise is the major ingredient, but some blends also use it equally with the other items.

Five spice powder has a unique flavor and should be used in small amounts. Use it in marinades or as a rub for meat, poultry and fish, or add it to rice and vegetable dishes. A dash or two in any stir-fry dish is also a great addition. For something different try adding it to muffins, breads, waffles, cookies or scones. For a unique burger or meatloaf add some five spice powder to the meat before cooking and serve it with a sweet and sour or plum sauce.

Five Spice Blend from Herb Companion Magazine You'll need:
4 tablespoons Szechuan peppers (or you can substitute other peppercorns)
4 tablespoons whole cloves
4 tablespoons broken cinnamon sticks
4 tablespoons fennel seed
12 whole star anise

Grind each ingredient separately in a spice mill or mortar. Combine and mix well. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Steamed Five Spice Peanuts

1 tsp. five spice powder
1/2 tsp. salt (optional if you want it salt free)
3 cups peanuts

Place five-spice powder and salt in a bowl and the peanuts, stirring till nuts are evenly coated. Leave to marinade for about two hours.

Transfer nut mixture to a dish and steam until the peanuts are soft.

Cool and then serve.

Five Spice Chicken

3 pounds chicken pieces
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil
1 tbsp. wine vinegar
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 tsp. ground fresh ginger
2 tsp. five spice powder

Wash the chicken and pat dry. Mix the soy sauce, oil and vinegar. Crush the garlic with salt and add to above mixture. Add the chicken to marinade and coat all sides. Marinade for 1 hour or longer-over night is fine in the refrigerator. Use a plastic bags or covered container. After marinating, place the chicken in roasting pan, spooning about 2 tbsp. of the marinade over the pieces. Spoon honey over the chicken. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour until pieces are crisp and done inside. Baste every 20 minutes or so with the juices in the pan. Notes: You can also grill this. If you do, bring the marinade to a boil first before using it to baste it as it cooks on the grill. If baking, discard the remaining marinade after the 2 tbsp. and use the pan juices to baste.

Slow cooked Five Spice Pork

3 pound pork shoulder roast
1 1/2 tsp. five spice powder
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. soy sauce

Trim fat from the pork roast. Check to make sure the roast will fit in your crock pot. If not, you can trim it to fit and place the extra around it where it will fit, or save to make stock at a later date by freezing. Rub the roast with five-spice powder. In a large skillet brown roast on all sides in hot oil. Place roast in crock pot. Stir together, vinegar, and soy sauce in the pan you browned the roast in. Stir with any juices and scrape the pan for any browned bits. Pour all over the roast in the crock. Cover and cook on low setting for several hours.

If the juices in the crock are not too fatty you can make a gravy with the juices or place in a pan and reduce the juices to make a sauce. Serve with rice or noodles,buttered boiled vegetables, sautéed green beans and salad.

1 memories:

Flyguy2046 said...

Like your style of writing and passions. Have you been writing of late?


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