Seasoned with big flavors and pan-fried to a golden color, spicy five spice potatoes make a fantastic side dish and it’s so easy to cook.
Once I received a comment from a blog reader saying she was surprised that Chinese people eat potatoes. Yes, we do! In fact, in Gansu, the province in northwest China where I was born and raised, potatoes are one of the common staples. Today’s recipe, spicy five spice potatoes (五香辣土豆), shows a great way to incorporate Chinese flavors into this worldwide beloved ingredient.
To cook these spicy five spice potatoes, you only need a handful of common ingredients.
- Baby potatoes. You can also use regular potatoes cut into chunks
- Dried chili flakes. No need to pick a particular type. It works as long as it suits your heat tolerance
- Five spice powder, shop-bought or homemade, see substitutes below
- Scallions. It’s for garnishing so feel free to skip
- Cooking oil. Any type would work for this recipe
- Salt. Fine or flaky, it’s up to you
Substitutes for five spice
There are two great alternatives: Ground Sichuan pepper or cumin powder. Both of them are classic accompaniments to dried chili pepper.
- Sichuan pepper creates an iconic taste of Sichuan cuisine: “Ma/麻” meaning numbing and tingly (think about Mapo Tofu, Dan Dan Noodles). If possible, grind whole Sichuan peppercorn to make the powder yourself. It tastes more intense than shop-bought versions.
- Cumin is a popular spice in Northwest Cuisine of China (西北菜). If you like Chinese Lamb Skewers, you’d love this potato dish seasoned with cumin.
The cooking procedure
It takes two simple steps to make this dish: boiling and pan-frying. I spent a total of 12 minutes cooking it from start to finish. Quick and easy, right?
Boil until just cooked
Put washed baby potatoes into a pot then fill it with cold water just enough to cover. Turn on the heat to high and bring it to a full boil. Then reduce the heat to low. Cover and leave to simmer until the potatoes are just cooked. The simmering process took me about 5 minutes but it might vary a little for you.
To check the doneness, poke a potato (one of the bigger ones) with a fork. If it goes in with some resistance, they’re done. Be careful not to overcook them to a mushy texture.
Pan-fry until golden
Heat up some oil in a large frying pan/skillet. Add drained potatoes. Use a glass (or anything with a flat bottom) to press one by one until they crack a little. Remember not to press so hard that they break into pieces.
Fry over medium heat until the first side becomes golden. Then flip over to brown the other side.
Finally, mix chili flakes, five spice (or ground Sichuan pepper, cumin powder) and salt. Sprinkle all over the potatoes and garnish with scallions for extra color if you wish. Now they’re ready to be served!
If you’re making spicy five spice potatoes for a multi-course feast, I suggest you boil the potatoes in advance then pan-fry them right before serving. This makes the entire process even shorter thus reducing the stress.
What to serve with
This dish makes a great side for many dishes. Here are some examples you might find appealing:
Spicy Five Spice Potatoes
- Put baby potatoes into a pot and add cold water just enough to cover. Bring water to a full boil then leave to simmer over low heat until they are just cooked. Use a fork to test. It should be able to poke through with some resistance. Do not overcook ( It took me about 5 minutes to simmer).
- Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add drained potatoes. Use a glass to press each one to create some cracks (but do not mash them).
- Fry over medium heat until the first side becomes golden. Flip over to brown on the other side.
- Sprinkle the mixture of chili flakes, five spice (or ground Sichuan pepper, cumin powder) and salt. Garnish with scallions and serve immediately.