Wednesday, April 2, 2014

WW: Five-Spice Chicken with Sugar Snaps

Wok Wednesdays wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young

Stir-frying in general, makes for quick meals; and this recipe is one of the quicker ones - due to just a few ingredients. OK, it seemed like a few, there are thirteen actually - however, all but two, are condiments and spices. There was very little preparation involved - just the slicing of the chicken, rinsing of the sugar snaps (if like me, you do), and mixing the spices and condiments together. So easy, so quick, so delicious.

Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Chicken thighs, ginger, dark soy sauce, honey, cornstarch, dry sherry, five-spice powder, sesame oil

Bowl 2: Sugar snap peas

Bowl 3: Chicken broth, ketchup, dark soy sauce

Bowl 4: Salt

This would have gone even quicker, if I had only checked my spice drawer for the Chinese five-spice before going to the store. I swear I had a jar - and was so thrilled to be able to use it again. Must have been old and I tossed it when I cleaned the drawer out last.

I texted the hubby to pick up a jar on his way home. Of course he had to go to two stores before he found it. He brought home a brand I haven't used. Grace mentions in the book, that this spice blend consists of Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, fennel, cinnamon and cloves. I checked the label's ingredient list and there is no Sichuan peppercorns listed - Spice Hunter brand substituted black pepper.

This lead me on an internet search for the authentic Chinese five-spice blend (see the end of this post for my findings). Out of the six brands I searched, only one had Sichuan peppercorns - of course it would not be the one available at your neighborhood grocery. The ingredient list differs by brand as well.

The chicken gets marinated in a mixture of dark soy sauce, honey, cornstarch, dry sherry, five-spice powder and sesame oil. It's amazing how tender and moist the chicken becomes after just a short time in the marinade - it marinates just long enough to gather the rest of the ingredients and set up shop.

Ohhh, why did I not make rice this time; or at least have some bread on hand. There was plenty of the most delicious sauce, with an exotic, somewhat sweet, and savory flavor, just begging to be soak up and consumed. I had to make do with swirling my steamed carrots into the sauce, which they did a pretty good job of it, and tasted pretty darn good too! 

Grace, thank you for another wonderful recipe. 

And now for my Chinese five-spice findings (Sichuan peppercorns substitute is shown in italics):

1. Morton & Bassett 
    Cinnamon, anise seed, cloves, ginger, fennel
2. Spice Hunter
    Star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper
3. McCormick
    Anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, ginger, sulfiting agents
4. Penzeys
    Cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger, cloves
5. Spicely
    Star anise, fennel, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves

****And the winner for most authentic is...

6. Williams-Sonoma
    Anise, Szechuan peppercorn, cinnamon, cloves, fennel

So there you go! It definitely pays to read labels..

Wok on my friends!! 

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 120 of  Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, which you can purchase at your local bookstore or find it at your local library. I highly recommend purchasing the book - you won't be disappointed. 

Wok Wednesdays is an online cooking group. If you would like information about joining us, click here, or visit us on Facebook. Would love for you to wok along with us!


  1. After reading yours, I checked my jar... cinnamon, anise, fennel, ginger, clove, and licorice root. That's six!!! Lol.

  2. Interesting information about the Chinese five spice. Thank you for your research! Your dish looks totally delicious.

  3. I have the Penzey' that you did the ingredient comparison! And love the sound of your chicken stir fry!!!

  4. This looks wonderful - I love stir frying too. It's so easy and healthy.

  5. This looks yummy - I wonder if it would work with shrimp or tofu? I have a jar of what I think is Chinese 5-spice in the cabinet, J's parents gifted it to us and I am never quite sure how to use it!

    1. Absolutely it would work with tofu, and shrimp as well! Give it a try, and let me know what you thought..


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