Chinese 5 spice powder is interesting in it's history. While it’s commonly believed that it gets it’s name because it contains 5 spices, the number actually refers to the 5 elements: wood, fire, water, earth, metal, and water. In traditional Chinese medicine, these elements manifest themselves in various parts of the human anatomy and imbalances in these elements are said to be the cause of disease.
Various herbs and spices have been used for thousands of years to restore balance to these elements which is how 5 spice powder came into being. Today it’s used in a variety of roasted and braised meat dishes, but it’s probably most recognizable in the west as the main seasoning in Char Siu (Chinese barbecued pork).
In addition, a variant on the "reason" for 5 spice is Five-spice powder encompasses all five flavors - sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty.I've seen the spice called for over and over in Chinese recipes over the years, and I DO cook a bit of chinese food, but never made one that called for it. That being said, this first recipe is not a Chinese recipe. It's my old, reliable, Cornish Game Hen. Check it out. (But I bet you see some Char Siu blogged in my immediate future)
5 spice to me seems a perfect match for fowl dishes. This particular marinade yields a delicious nutty and pungent quality to the bird. Delicious.
Ingredients and Method:
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons soy sauce soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry or rice wine
1/4 cup oil
1 clove garlic (smashed)
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons five spice powder
Mix marinade in a bowl.
Wash game hen thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Place in ovenproof dish or pan. Spoon 1/4 cup of marinade into cavity of hen. Baste the outside of hen with marinade mixture.
Bake in 350 degree oven until meat thermometer registers 180 degrees. (About 1 hour) Every 10 minutes or so while baking, baste the bird liberally again with the marinade. You want to wind up with a nice baked patina of the 5 spice marinade when done.
Remove, let sit for 10 minutes and serve immediately.