It was a loud call for the Yin and Yang balance in the body, this weekend, that motivated me to pick up that Chinese Five spice powder, that has been hiding in my pantry, stored away safely for rainy days since a month ago.What better day than today, I thought, it’s been raining all week, with the clouds hanging low, one’s spirits needed a lift from the dull gloomy mood it has settled in this whole week.Wake up the Dragon energy within, I told myself as I picked up my magic wand in the kitchen, with no particular menu in mind, yet the only thing I knew was that I needed something spicy for certain, something to get my yang energy up and moving!
“Trust your gut instinct” say the enlightened, often….so yesterday, on my way back home, when my car pulled over instinctively at the Korean Market, I knew that feeling….FISH was on the cards !
Soaking my eyes, in the rows of freshly caught fish….
……the lobsters and crabs that seemed to race each other in the live tanks….
…..the frozen fish aisle …
……I slowly picked a few that played delicious mind games with me ,floating in a spicy curry cooked in an earthen pot, ready to be savored. This morning as I fiddled with the idea of fixing a quick brunch between my endless laundry, my creative juices kicked in…..with single minded focus, I picked up that pack of frozen short necked clam meat I had bought and went to work with it.
Last month I had picked up this amazing Five Spice powder at a local market that sells goods from all over the world.Having heard a lot about it, yet never once tasting it before, I was curious and excited to try this “wonder powder ” as the Chinese call it. Though it is widely known in the west as the main seasoning ingredient for the dish Char Siu ( Chinese barbecued pork), I decided to try my hand with clam meat and this newly acquired Chinese Five spice powder of mine.
Photo Courtesy: The Daring Gourmet
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, 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. What better day to balance the elements in one’s body I thought, than a rainy cold morning ?
The five spice powder supposedly,incorporates all five taste elements: Sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty, and is based on the Chinese philosophy of balancing the yin and yang in food. The main ingredients are ground cinnamon, ground cloves, star anise ,fennel seeds and Szechuan peppercorns which gives it that citrusy pungent flavor.
This paired with the South Indian dish of Lemon Rice, would set the tone for the day, I decided and set about making each dish side by side on my oven top.Both dishes were done in a matter of 20 minutes and brunch was served and ….they lived happily ever after 🙂
Frozen short neck clam meat- a pack ( 20- 30 clams)
Oil- 1 tbsp ( Peanut oil taste better, but I used coconut oil)
Onion- finely sliced ( 1 medium)
Bell pepper – Red & Green ( to add to the visual effects & taste)
Five Spice powder- 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp ( if you are a South Indian, you almost add this to all the dishes you cook, be it Indian or a fusion dish, nothing feels complete without TURMERIC !)
Rice Vinegar- 1 tbsp
Soy sauce- 1 tbsp
Sriracha sauce- 1 tbsp (or 2 depending on your spice threshold)
Salt – to taste
- Wash the frozen clam meat (or fresh) in running water, rub salt , turmeric powder & Five spice powder & set aside to marinate.
- Next in a wok, warm a little oil, add the finely sliced onions and saute till golden brown, next add the bell peppers & saute till they soften.
- To this add the marinated clam, along with rice vinegar, Sriracha sauce & soy sauce and stir well adding a lil’ salt to taste.
- Keep the lid covered while stirring occasionally, for next 10 -15 minutes. Do not over cook as the calm meat becomes rubbery if over cooked.
- Serve with Lemon rice or as a side dish for flat breads.Enjoy! Guaranteed you will never complain about the cold rain outdoors again 🙂