Common Chinese Spices

Star Anise 八角
What is star anise?
This herb is in the shape of star and is the seed pod of an evergreen tree found in southwestern China and Japan. It has 8 segments and is in dark brown rust color.

star anise

Cooking Methods:
Most braised Chinese cooking method needed star anise as to spice up the dish. Here is one recipe for you to try out!

Can be found in any Asian supermarkets even you are in western countries. How to identified good star anise? As long as the whole pieces aren’t broken, it is consider good enough.

Store in the sealed container and place the container in a cool dark place (do not expose directly to sunlight). It can last for several months if it was stored properly.

It was cooked in a whole piece. It can’t be consume, discard it before serving. There is also ground anise available in market.

Fennel Seed 茴香籽
What is fennel seed?
Fennel seed came from fennel plant which are used in herbal medicines and act as spices in Chinese cooking. It has a fragrant odor and taste. It can be found in various forms such as seed, oil or capsules. Pregnant women should not consume fennel seed.

fennel seed

It can be purchase in any local Asian supermarket or spice shop. The freshness of the seed depends on the colors. Bright green color is the best quality, the seed will turn to darker color (dark green -> brown -> grey) when the freshness deteriorate.

Store it in the air tight glass container to preserve the freshness. It will last for about 6 months for whole piece compare to the grounded fennel seed.

Before cooking it into a dish, it needs to be toasted or heated in a frying pan for 2/3 minutes. This will gives a stronger flavor compare milder.

Clove 丁香
What is clove?
Cloves aroma is extremely strong, pundent and sweet. It can be in a whole or in a grounded form and also oil. Cloves are dried, unopened flower buds of the myrtle tree. It will add to the spiciness of the dish when used from oil.


It can be purchase in any Asian supermarkets and is a very popular spices uses in Chinese cooking.

Store it in an airtight glass container and keep the container in the cool dark area.

You can straightaway use it during your cooking, pretty simple and easy. Want to try out some simple chinese pork recipes that uses this chinese cooking spice? Here you go...

Cinnamon 桂皮
What is cinnamon?
It is a spice that found from the inner bark of Cinnamon tree. The bark is peeled, dried and rolled into quills. It is very thin with light-yellowish brown color and a highly fragrant aroma. It tastes sweet too. It is a very important ingredient for Chinese cooking especially in braised dishes. It can be found in 2 forms: powder and sticks. You can ground the cinnamon sticks into powder yourself or you may just get the cinnamon powder directly from the supermarket.


Cinnamon can be found in any local Asian supermarket.

Store it in an airtight glass container and keep the container in the cool dark area.

Many Chinese cooking also uses the grounded cinnamon for those normal stir-frying dishes. The whole cinnamon is used on braised dishes.

Five Spice Powder 五香粉
What is five spice powder?
Though it was called as five spices powder but the ingredient of making this powder are more than 5. It is a mixture of 10 different spices: cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, star anise, cloves, coriander seed, nutmeg seed, lime skin, pepper and rice.

It is used to spice up and season a lot of Chinese food. It usually comes in powder form and common used in Asian cooking.

five spice powder

Five spice powder can be found in any local Asian supermarket.

Store it in an airtight glass container and keep the container in the cool dark area.

This five spice powder is commonly use to marinate any kind of dish or meat with approximately 600g of meat (2 tsp of five spice powder), salt, soy sauce and sugar to taste for about 30 minutes. After marinate, the meat is suitable for deep fry, roasting or grilling.

Let me share one of the Chinese famous appetizer that need this important spice - Fried Bean Curd Pork Meat Roll and Hakka Braised Pork Belly.

Ginger 姜
What is ginger?
Fresh ginger is used commonly among Chinese dishes especially when cooking seafood. It was used to get rid of the fishy smell of the seafood. Ginger produces hot and fragrant spice. Mature ginger have more flavors and heat compare to the fresh ginger. It was used in soups, stews, marinades, pickled in vinegar for sweet and sour dressings. Some Chinese cooking dishes used it to stir fry together with ginger.


Freshness of the ginger:
If the ginger starts to have wrinkles and getting very dry, it shows the ginger is end of life. Stop using this type of ginger.

You can get it from any supermarkets or wet market.

To preserve it longer, you may keep it inside a paper bag and place the paper bag in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator. It can lasts for few weeks. Please don’t store ginger in the freezer.

Before it is used for cooking, peel off the ginger skin and cut them according to the shape of your needs. If you can’t finish using after peeling, you may place them in a plastic container and keep inside the refrigerator for next cooking. Keep in mind; it should not keep more than a day as the freshness will go off!

Ginger commonly cooked with seafood to help get rid of the fishy smell and also Chicken Congee.

White Peppercorns 白胡椒
What is white peppercorn?
White pepper powder is originated from white peppercorn. It gives spicy taste and commonly used for soups. It helps in reducing headaches and it also helps in digestive problem too.

White peppercorn can be purchase throughout the year. It can be found in any supermarket as it was also used in the western. White peppercorn is popular amongst Chinese and Westerns.

You can store them for many years if you keep it dry and cool. Avoid moisture and sunlight.

Smashed it with spoons or with the back of the cleaver as this will help in bringing out the aromatic taste more.

White Peppercorn is commonly used to cook soup, but you need to smashed it before cook. Here is one recipe to be shared: Chinese ABC Soup.

Bird’s Eye Chili 鸟眼/小辣椒
What is bird’s eye chili?
It is the smallest version of chili. The smaller the chili, the spicier it can be. This chili is considered the spiciest! Chinese loves spicy food. Sometimes, bird’s eye chili is used as a dipping sauce.

It can be grown in any tropical country; I used to plant my own bid’s eye chili as it is easier to grow compared with the normal chili. It is easily available in any Chinese/Asian supermarket.

Keep it dry and cool. With this condition, it can only be kept for the most is one week. The chili will turn dark after the freshness fade off.

It can be eaten raw or cooked. Just need to rinse it and if you like just cut them finely, you can mix with soy sauce for dipping purposes during your meals.

Spicy Deep Fry Pork Ribs needs this special chili to get the great taste...

Kaffir Lime Leaf 柠檬叶

You can buy it from any spice shop. You can also plant it in your own garden, I did that because it was so easy and no hassle at all. You do not really need to spend a lot of time taking care of it. You just need to water the plant at least once a day. Even for those working people you can plant it as minimal care is needed.

The freshness of the leaf can only last for 1 week if you store in the fridge. Try to cook it immediately when it is still fresh.

Just rinse it before cooking. Some people will cut them finely to get the fragrance out of it. Some just put the whole leaves while cooking.

Get yourself the famous pickled fish stomach with kaffir lime leaves recipe. I bet you going to love it as much as I do.

Fresh Turmeric (yellow ginger) 姜黄
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is a type of ginger which is yellowish and if you cooked the dish with turmeric, the dish will be in yellow color. Turmeric brings a lot of health benefits such as reduce cancer and natural liver detoxified.

Chinese has treated turmeric as medicine for the depression. Besides, a lot of Chinese women after delivery (during confinement); they will cook the dishes with turmeric to clear off the air from their body.

But if you are pregnant, do not take turmeric directly before consulting doctor. You can find fresh turmeric or powder form.

It can be purchase at any Chinese/Asian supermarket. It is also available in spice shop.

After purchase, keep it in dry and cool area. Do not expose to sunlight. Fresh turmeric can’t be kept too long, but turmeric powder can be kept for long time.

For the fresh turmeric, you need to ground them before cooking. Powder forms are easily handling compared to the fresh one. Try this Chinese Salad.

Lemongrass 香茅
What is lemongrass?
Lemongrass is beneficial to human health. It helps coping with fever, lower cholesterol level, improve blood circulation and also deal well with menstrual problem. After birth delivery, most Chinese mother will take bath with lemongrass water as Chinese believe that the lemongrass water will prevent the air entering our body.

Lemongrass can be easily grown in tropical country; you do not need to take care much. I did grow some in my own small garden…. You can get it from any Chinese or Asian supermarket.

Keep it dry and cool. The best is keeping them in the refrigerator after purchase.

Try this legendary tamarind fish recipe pass down to me by my grandaunt. Lemongrass play an essential role to make the fragrants perfectly nice!

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