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What Is Five-Spice Powder?

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Quick Answer

Five-spice powder is a pungent mixture of five spices used primarily in Chinese cuisine. Variations exist, but commonly used ingredients include cloves, anise, fennel, cinnamon and peppercorns.

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Cooks use five-spice powder to season fatty meat and poultry after cooking, as a rub for meat prior to cooking, or as seasoning when breading food for frying. Cooks also use it in a Chinese culinary technique referred to as "red cooking" that gives food a reddish brown color.

Other ingredients used in the creation of five-spice powder include Mandarin orange peels, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric and cardamom. Each ingredient provides sweet, sour, salty, pungent or bitter flavor to the mix.

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