Well, the very best and the easiest Chinese Five Spice recipe is the one that comes from the spice rack at your local supermarket, because it’s already been ground up for you. Ha. Actually that’s true as far as my palate is concerned, honestly I just don’t have the time, nor do I have the space in my small Brooklyn kitchen to have a crazy spice rack of my own. So go out and buy it pre made.
However, if you are a traditionalist and kitchen space isn’t a problem for you, then by all means make your own. It is absolutely true that by making your own you will almost certainly have a better flavor than the store bought. Dried spices retain their flavor better when they are whole and my grinding them up when you need them they will be that much more effective.
So, the traditional Chinese Five Spice is very simple, you can do it in any proportion that you like, to taste. While quite different from the actual included ingredients, this is more or less the Chinese version of a Garam Masala.
Star Anise, or simply Anise Seed
Every mix of spices works just a little bit better when you gently toast them, and Chinese Five Spice is no different. If you want an excruciatingly detailed description of how to properly toast spices, I’ve got it for you.