Five-Spiced Chicken

Gà Ngũ Vị Hủỏng

Five-spice powder is a magical formula balancing peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, and star anise. We credit the Chinese for the invention and use it in many Vietnamese dishes. Five-spiced Chicken is not only flavorful but also aromatic; it’s often sold in the meat delis of Little Saigon. But if you want to make it yourself, it’s very simple. I prefer to use individual pieces of chicken because it’s easier to marinate them thoroughly, but you can certainly apply this recipe to a whole chicken. Because it’s not a typical, salty Vietnamese dish, Five-spiced Chicken can be served with fried rice or a sautéed noodle dish.


  • 3 pounds whole chicken, quartered and skinless
  • 1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 6 clove garlic
  • ½ tablespoon ground star anise
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • cup sesame seed oil
  • tablespoons five-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Ginger Lime Soy Sauce


  1. Clean and pat dry the chicken quarters. Set aside.
  2. In a food processor, mince the onion and garlic. Blend in the ground star anise. Scrape into a small bowl.
  3. To the bowl, add the sugar, sesame seed oil, five-spice powder, salt, black pepper, and soy sauce. Whisk until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
  4. Place the chicken quarters in a shallow dish or a large ziplock bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken, making sure all parts are completely covered. Marinate for at least 6 hours, but ideally overnight. Every so often, baste the chicken in the dish or rotate the bag to ensure that the chicken parts are always well coated.
  5. Prepare a grill for cooking the chicken. A large skillet set on a hot burner is a good alternative. When the grill is hot, place the chicken on it and cook for 10 to 15 minutes on each side, frequently basting the chicken with the marinade. If you are using a skillet, pour all the marinade into the skillet to cook with the chicken. The chicken is cooked when it is pricked with a knife or fork and the juices run clear.
  6. Arrange the chicken on a bed of lettuce. Serve hot with Ginger Lime Soy Sauce and steamed or fried rice or sautéed noodles.