• Ten Spices, the Variety of Life

    I was over for dinner Misetak’s yesterday and the subject of five-spice powder came up. She’d gone to the local store and examined a bottle of Schwartz’s Five-Spice Powder. She quickly put it back on the shelf when she noticed the first ingredient was salt. In our combined, admittedly inexpert, opinion, salt is not one of the classic five spices of five spice powder. We tried to name them off and came up with star anise, cloves, coriander seeds, pepper, and she thought perhaps mace/nutmeg. I knew I had a recipe to make Chinese five-spice powder by hand, so I promised to look it up and share.

    China Moon Ten-Spice

    Makes 3/4 cup

    This recipe is taken from China Moon Cookbook by Barbara Tropp (©1992) Why have ten spices instead of five? To quote Barbara Trollop, cookbook author, “I can’t say, except to suggest that the result is doubly good.”

    Ingredients: Whole Spices

    • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
    • 10 star anise, broken into points
    • 2 tablespoons Szechwan peppercorns
    • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
    • 3/4 teaspoon whole cloves
    • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
    • 1.5 teaspoons black peppercorns

    Ingredients: Ground Spices

    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric


    1. Toast the whole spices together in a small dry skillet over low heat, stirring and adjusting the heat so that the spices toast without burning. Stir until the spices are fully fragrant and the fennel seeds and lighter-coloured spices are lightly browned, and 5 minutes. Stir in the ground spices.
    2. Using a spice grinder or a clean coffee grinder, grind the mixture finely. Store in a tightly covered jar.

    Personal Notes

    I have to admit that I haven’t tried this yet. I don’t have a spice grinder anymore either. I had an old-fashioned hand-kranked coffee grinder that I’d bought at a flea market in Zürich, but it’s still in Zürich. Perhaps I’ll have to ask my friend there to ship it back to me. It would be great for this. In the meantime, I’ll try it with a mortar and pestle.</p


    One comment on “Ten Spices, the Variety of Life”

    • Eingang says:

      I have since made this. I used the nut/cheese/spice smaller blender jar I have for my blender as it was taking forever to use the mortar and pestle. I need some more practice at the spice toasting bit. I think they could have been toasted more, but they weren’t burnt.
      I threw some of the resulting powder into the water for my steamed rice today and it turned out quite nice, I thought. It certainly smelled great as it was steaming!

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