You might have noticed how the cold weather makes you long for spice and vigour in your diet. A beautiful slender red or green chilli, or a steamy bowl of vibrant ginger can not only sound very appealing these days, but even the sight and aroma can do wonders for the body and mind. Spices used in Chinese cuisine perform various functions in enhancing or even subduing over powering flavours that can come across too strong. Come to think of it, they all have their part to play in serving the dining experience and providing vitality at the same time.

I’ve often had customers tell me how a certain spice that we’ve used in a dish they’ve just eaten, makes them feel robust with increased energy. I’d like to think of this being that burst of flavour that stands out distinctly. There are many vital ingredients that go into Chinese cooking and getting the right balance is always something we strive for.

One of the most commonly used spices in our cooking is Star Anise. Shaped like a star – a woody, refreshing flavour really works well with our braised stews and hot pots. So also the Cloves that are part of the five spice mix. Cloves provide that dynamic variety of pungent, slightly smoky and somewhat sweet like essence that contribute a great deal to a nuanced taste. And even though the five spice mix is called just that, it contains more than five spices admittedly adding the extra bits of lime seed, even rice, fennel and coriander which make an unsuspecting appearance.

A key ingredient to providing a zing of strength and calm is Ginger. By far, it is probably the most rejuvenating. In fact, the more mature the ginger, the more it is packed with richer flavour and potency blending very well with any kind of seafood, meat and game. Turmeric, which is a kind of ginger root can work like magic if used correctly in the right combination and portion. It provides healing to the skin and body, clearing your mind to relaxation and boosting your energy levels.

I’ve always enjoyed the benefits of these in the food cooked by my husband and chef of Naturally Chinese. It was one of the essential factors we planned to bring to the restaurant’s menu. Stay tuned for future posts that will talk more about our ingredients and how we are continuously working to fine tune our burst of flavours.