Food - Drink
The Surprising Link Between Chinese Five-Spice Powder And Herbal Medicine
Chinese five-spice powder combines anise, fennel, cinnamon, clove, and Sichuan peppercorns into a mixture found in many classic dishes. Per Chinese food history, the five spices are believed to represent different flavor groups — salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and sweet.
Up until 15 years ago, the five-spice mix was available only at Chinese medicine stores before it was commercialized. The shopkeepers would “make up the mixture on the spot from the individual spices, just like filling a herbal prescription,” per Theresa Lin in Taiwan Panorama.
No one knows precisely when or how the spice mix was born. However, Taiwan Panorama adds that since Chinese people like to draw connections between ingredients and herbal medicine, the five-spice blend may have been medicinally used at some point in time.