Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken

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Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken

A chicken dish is a must have at the Chinese New Year Eve reunion dinner. Typically the chicken is served whole with the head and all, symbolizing wholeness and prosperity. When I was a kid, the silky smooth “pak cham kai” (in Cantonese dialect) or “white cut chicken” was very popular. This dish is similar to the Hainanese Chicken I posted some months back. Most families will pre-order an organic chicken known in Malaysia as “kampung” or village chicken, for that purpose. I remember one year, someone actually gifted us with a life chicken. Mom and aunt had the task of slaughtering the chicken and preparing it. Please use your imagination for the rest of the story. Suffice to say the dish wasn’t very popular with the kids that year.

An alternative to “pak cham kai” is this Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken. Often served at the Chinese 10-course wedding banquets, this delicious roast chicken is accompanied by shrimp crackers and pepper salt. This is one of the few dishes eaten with salt instead of soy sauce. Of course this was a favorite with the kids at those banquets, if they can look beyond that chicken head. Thank goodness that “garnish” seldom appear on the plate these days!

Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken

The chicken can be marinated overnight with ginger, scallion, and Shao Hsing rice wine. It is then drained, air dried, applied with a rub, and air dried again for several hours before roasting. The version shown here is simplified where the chicken is placed on a beer can roaster so that it sits upright during roasting. The juices drip onto the pan producing a chicken with crispy skin. The fragrant salt is easy to prepare and is good with most meats.

Here is what the beer can roaster looks like. A can of beer or soda may be placed in the center to flavor your roasted chicken. I will have to give it a try one of these days.

Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken

Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken


  • 1 (3 to 4 lbs) roasting chicken
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • Pepper Salt
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground white pepper


Remove giblets and excessive fat from chicken. Rinse chicken including the inside. Pat dry the outside and place it on a beer can chicken roaster to drip dry for an hour.

Pan fry sea salt and ground white pepper over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until fragrant.

Combine five-spice powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder in a small bowl. Remove chicken from the roaster and liberally sprinkle or pat mixture on the inside and outside of the chicken. Place chicken back onto roaster and allow it to dry for another hour. Truss chicken by tying the lower part of the wings and legs together.

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Roast chicken on the beer can roaster for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes or until thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone registers 180°F. Let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Place sea salt and pepper in a small fry pan. Stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Remove and place in a small dish.

Serve chicken with slices of cucumber, shrimp crackers, and pepper salt.

Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken

I am submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #15: Auspicious Dishes for CNY (January 2012) hosted by Wen of Wen’s Delight.

Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 8-)

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35 Responses

  1. rebecca says:

    love this great idea to roast chicken with 5 spice doing this soon

  2. Zoe says:

    I always like this very traditional way of home-roasting chicken but not brave enough to roast one on my own. I find your step by step instructions very helpful and will definitely use your instructions if I’m roasting my own chicken.

  3. This looks so good! A great way to change up classic roast chicken. I’ve never used a beer can roaster or even seen such a device – so interesting! Thanks!

    • Biren says:

      That beer can roaster is a convenient “gadget” to have in the kitchen. It was a very inexpensive way to replace my rotisserie oven. :)

  4. Juliana says:

    Beautiful roasted chicken, I especially like the 5 spice rub…so tasty. Beautifully done.
    Hope you have a wonderful week ahead Biren :-)

  5. Oh my gosh, that looks delicious. I love 5-spice powder and plan to make this very, very soon. I have to say, I hope no one ever gifts me with a live chicken! That must have been horrifying for your mom. What a story though!

    • Biren says:

      Thanks Christiane! I hope you enjoy the recipe.

      Thankfully I grew up towards the end of the era when women had to dress their own fowl. We lived in the city and Mom was relieved that she could buy dressed chicken at the markets. I would have given the chicken away… :)

  6. This is a nice chicken dish for CNY reunion dinner! If you are interested may consider submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #15 – Auspicious Dishes for CNY (Jan 12) hosted by me.

    Happy New Year!

  7. Would you believe I just had this wonderful dish a few days ago at a cousin’s wedding? After we cleared the chicken pieces off the plate, there was the head with beak and all, staring at the ten of us, seated around the table. I did feel a bit guilty, but what can I say? It was delicious! Your roast looks perfectly done.Crisp golden skin and I can imagine how juicy that plump thigh must be. I could easily go for another round ;)

    • Biren says:

      Good to see you here, my friend. :) Haha…so they do still serve it with the head!! I wonder how my boys will react to such a sight. It is one thing to grow up with it but I can imagine it must be quite shocking to someone not familiar with it at all. Miss those wedding banquets.

  8. Beautiful Roast Chicken!! I bet the five spice made it sing! Love your roasting device too. Have a great week! ~ Ramona

  9. PolaM says:

    That chicken looks delightful! I love roasted chicken and I have to try this version! Looks so crispy and tasty!

  10. Dongxing says:

    Dear Biren,

    Happy New Year to you and your family! I have been reading all your posts but I have not been able to put my comments in, apologies! This chicken is absolutely delicious – just made it last night with 2 chicken leg quarters. I had forgotten how delicious this simple rub can be. My husband liked it too, even though he is not a fan of 5-spice. Thank you!

    • Biren says:

      Thanks for reading and following along! I am happy that you have tried quite a few of my recipes and I do appreciate your feedback as well. So glad to hear this went down well with the family. :)

  11. anything with 5 spice is an A+ in my book. this chicken looks so flavorful and perfect for guests

  12. I love 5 spice too. The chicken is perfectly roasted. Miss shrimp crackers.

  13. Biren, I think the five spices is magical. It enhances the taste of all kinds of meat. I am sure when you roast this chicken, the whole house is filled with the spice fragrance. While typing this comment, I can feel myself salivating. The beer can device look so interesting. I will definitely buy one and use it if I spot it someday!

  14. Victoria says:

    5 Spice is a wonderful spice mixture. Chicken is a perfect vessel for it. Your beer can roaster is a neat gadget! Never seen one before!

  15. This sounds so simple to make but looks really tasty & flavorful. Hope I could try this one of these days!

  16. You must be so busy preparing for CNY! We always celebrate it with friends at a restaurant so I’m not very familiar with traditions or traditional food that people make at home. This roasted chicken looks so yummy! We can eat it for regular days, maybe for me with drummets or drumsticks. Drooling as I imagine the taste!

  17. tigerfish says:

    Easy and delicious roast chicken with five-spice! Yum!

  18. Hyosun Ro says:

    Biren – My next roast chicken will definitely have the 5-spice powder. I also need to try this beer can method. I keep hearing about it but have never actually tried. Your chicken looks really crispy!

  19. I love hearing of all the dishes and what goes into the CNY celebration. I love beer can chicken, you should really try it that way sometime. I have seen the beer can gadget at Walmart. It reminds me to pull mine out again and use it…funny how we get away from some methods for awhile. I am using your simple but delicious 5 spice blend.

    • Biren says:

      Yes, I must definitely try the beer can roast chicken soon. I hope you will give this a try as I think you will enjoy it. It is so simple too!

  20. Yum! What a recipe. I have a chicken waiting to be cooked and I think I’m going to try this!

  21. Asmita says:

    Wow, this chicken looks awesome!

  22. Cat says:

    looks easy and yummy! I can’t wait to try!

  23. yummyboy says:

    Any idea where can I get that beer can roaster?

  1. January 29, 2014

    […] Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken […]

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