Use of Spices in Chinese Cooking

The Chinese for ages have had a tradition of using spices and herbs to enhance the flavour of their cuisine while providing nutritional benefits. These days you can find many Chinese spices and herbs at your local supermarkets and some specialty food stores. While creating Chinese dishes, you can’t go wrong if you use the following spices and herbs.

Spices used in Chinese food

Spices used in Chinese cooking

Star anise

Star anise as the name suggests is in the shape of a star, which is the seed pod of a tree found in southwest China and Japan that grows all year long. This spice is dark brown in colour and has 8 segments.

Star anise can be found in most Asian supermarkets in whole and ground form, even if you are in a western country. This spice needs to be stored in a sealed container that is placed in a cool dark place. If stored properly, this spice can survive for several months.

Most Chinese culinary creations need star anise to spice up the dish. You need to use the whole spice while cooking, but it can’t be consumed, hence you need to discard the spice before serving the dish.

Fennel seed

Fennel seeds come from the Fennel plant, which is used as a herbal medicine and also acts as a spice in Chinese cooking. It adds taste and a fragrant odor.

The freshness of the spice depends on the colour of the seeds. Bright green colour is the best quality. The darker the colour of the seeds the older they are. These seeds need to be stored in an air tight glass container in order to preserve its freshness and can last for about 6 months.

Toast or heat the seeds in a frying pan for a minute before adding them to your dish.

Spices used in Chinese cooking


Cloves add an extremely strong, sweet and pungent aroma to the Chinese dish. It can be found in whole, ground or oil form. Cloves are the dried and unopened flower buds of the myrtle tree that adds to the spiciness of the dish if used in oil form.

Cloves can be found in most supermarkets as it is a very popular spice that needs to be stored in an air tight container and kept in a cool dark place. Cloves can be used in whole or ground form while cooking.


Cinnamon is a spice that is found from the inner bark of the Cinnamon tree. The bark of this tree is peeled, dried and rolled into quills. This dried spice gives a highly fragrant aroma and sweet taste to the dish. Cinnamon is a very important spice for Chinese cooking and can be found in ground and stick form.

This spice can be found in any local supermarket and should be stored in an airtight glass container and kept in a cool dark place.

White Peppercorns

White pepper powder originated from white peppercorn. It adds a spicy taste to the food and is most commonly used in soups. It helps reduce headaches and helps with digestive problems.

White peppercorn is very popular amongst the Chinese. It can be stored for many years if kept in a cool dry place. Smash the peppercorn with a spoon to bring out the aromatic taste.

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