It’s all about harmony and yin-yang.
Which sounds tritely New Age-y, but really is the key to Chinese cuisine.
Because as with so much of Asian cooking, the blend of seasonings known as five-spice powder is intended to trigger a sense of balance in the mouth and nose.
How? A careful selection of spices that simultaneously hit notes of warm and cool, sweet and bitter, savory and searing.
Because that’s what you get with five-spice powder, a mix of fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and Sichuan peppercorns.
Like spice blends around the world, the proportions of those ingredients vary by region in China, but some variant of it is used throughout the country.