It’s commonly believed that five spice gets its name because it contains five spices, that are said to encompass all five flavors of sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty. But the number actually refers to the five elements of wood, fire, 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 thought to be the source of illness. Restoring balance to these elements in our bodies, using various herbs and spices is a practice that has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine. It said that Chinese five spice was created to restore balance. While in China, I picked up a book called “Between Heaven and Earth: A guide to Chinese Medicine” which I highly recommend if you feel drawn. It’s fascinating.
Tea-smoking is a quintessential technique of Szechuan cuisine and is traditionally used to make duck. Instead of using wood chips or an outdoor smoker, The Chinese technique is done in a wok, with a mixture of uncooked rice, sugar, and tea. I added a couple star anise and a dried peppers to the mix.
Garnish with a little orange zest, chili threads and chopped scallion.
2-4 pieces Salmon ( preferable thick pieces)
4-6 baby bok choy ( 2-3 per person)
Garnish: chili threads ( optional) or chopped scallions
4 cloves garlic whole
3 T fresh ginger- sliced
2 tsp Five Spice (store bought or make your own… see below)
¼ C olive oil
5 T soy sauce
3 T brown sugar
1 orange (¼ C fresh orange juice and zest, divided )
Five Spice Recipe:
2 inch cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 whole star anises
2 teaspoons szechuan peppercorns
Toast all in a skillet over medium heat until just fragrant, 1-2 mins only. Grind in a coffee grinder until smooth.
Tea Smoking Ingredients:
3 T rice
2 T loose tea leaves ( green or black tea)
2 T sugar
2 star anise broken (optional)
2 dry red chilies (optional)
Make the marinade. Blend all of the marinade ingredients in a blender, until smooth, reserving ½ of the zest for garnish. Set aside 3 T of marinade for the bok choy. Place the salmon and rest of the marinade marinade in a ziplock bag and marinate 1 hour or overnight.
Turn oven to broil.
Prepare Wok for smoking. (A wok works best -or use a deep sauté pan or pot with a lid). You will need a vegetable steamer basket or rack that fits in the wok.
Line the wok with 4 layers of foil. Take a large piece of foil and fold in half, then in half again so you have an 8 inch square, four layers thick. Place foil in the bottom of the wok. In a small bowl, mix smoking ingredients together in a bowl and place in the wok, spreading it out, to about 4 inches in diameter. Place a rack or steamer over the tea/rice mix, so its sits above, and is not directly touching. You want space for the smoke to circulate.
Prep the bok choy, by quartering.
Take salmon out of the marinade, blotting the bottom side of the salmon only, on a paper towel, then place salmon on the vegetable steam, so they are not touching each other or the edges of the wok. Cover the wok with foil, then the lid. Place wok on high heat for 2-3 minutes until you begin to see little puffs of smoke. Once you see smoke, turn heat down to med for 2-3 minutes, then med-low for 5 minutes. I smoked 2 pieces of salmon a total of 8 minutes… salmon was 1½ inches thick -and was cooked to medium. Then caramelize the top of the salmon by either placing under the broiler for a minute or two, or use a chef’s torch, and set aside or in a warm oven.
Heat oil in a wok or skillet over medium high heat, and when hot, add baby bok choy, turning occasionally, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Add a couple tablespoons of the reserved fish marinade, tossing to coat, letting the marinade cook and reduce slightly. Make a bed of bok choy, top with salmon, garnish with orange zest, chopped scallions, cracked pepper, and chili threads (optional).
Marinade time: 1 hour Cook time: 20 mins Total time: 1 hour 20 mins Yield: 2-4