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May 15, 2018
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WINE WITH…Five-Spice Chicken with Chickpea & Olive Salad

With its seductive sweet/ tangy/ spicy flavors, five-spice blend is a common component in the cuisines of China and Taiwan. Many of the premixed commercial versions are excellent (we often use McCormick’s), but making your own blend using ingredients that you already have on your spice shelf can be fun and easy. The basic mix is not carved in stone, and variations on the general theme are common. Sichuan pepper, for example, is a standard ingredient in the mix, but a combination of freshly ground black pepper and a dash of red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper works just fine too. If you have anise seeds in your spice collection but not star anise, no problem. Feel free to add orange peel (fresh or dried) to the mix, and of course garlic generally improves almost any savory dish. We might have added ginger to our recipe here, but we decided to put it in the salad instead.

Rice would certainly be the traditional accompaniment to this dish, but since we were in the mood for something with a little more panache and complexity we came up with this Mediterranean type salad spiked with Asian notes of soy and ginger. The salad may be made up to 24 hours in advance, and the chicken will be even tastier if the spice is rubbed into it a day ahead of time.

We grilled our chicken thighs over indirect medium heat. (Of course you could use breasts if you prefer them). Should you rather roast the chicken, preheat the oven to 375°. Arrange the thighs, skin side up, in a roasting pan and roast for 40-45 minutes. Run the chicken under the broiler for a couple of minutes if you want browner, crisper skin.

If you opt for canned garbanzo beans, use two 15.5 ounce cans. The Niçoise olives should be about the same size as the garbanzo beans; if they are larger, cut them in half.

Five-Spice Chicken With Chickpea & Olive Salad

Serves 4

4 to 8 skin on, bone-in chicken thighs (depending on how hungry you and your company are)
About 3 tablespoons Chinese five-spice blend (if making your own, see recipe below)
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1 cup pitted Niçoise olives
1/3 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon roughly cut fresh mint leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried mint)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes to taste)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)

Prick the chicken skin all over with a fork. Rub the five-spice blend over the chicken thighs, both top and bottom sides. Place the thighs in a zip-lock bag or covered bowl. Let them rest for at least 10 minutes, and up to 24 hours.

Grill the chicken. To avoid burning the skin, do so over indirect medium heat. Arrange the cooked chicken in individual serving bowls or plates along with the salad.

To make the salad, toss the garbanzo beans and olives together in a bowl. Place the remaining ingredients in a blender and process until everything is smooth and thoroughly combined. Pour over the garbanzos and olives and mix well. May be made up to a day ahead.

For the Five Spice Blend:

1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon star anise
Freshly ground black pepper plus 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Place all ingredients in a blender and process at high speed (we made the dressing for the salad in the same blender, without rinsing it out first). You also could use a spice grinder if you prefer.

* * *

We reasoned that white wines would show best with this dish, but we found that reds performed as well if not better since the somewhat assertive five-spice blend can easily overwhelm a delicate white. Look, then, for a bolder white, or for a light-bodied red. And especially with summer on the way, don’t forget about rosés!

Connect  on Twitter:   @M_L_Thomas  and  @Wine_With_
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Approx. Price


Fleur de Mer,

Côtes de Provence (France)



(Imported by Wine Brokers Unlimited)


Tasting of ripe, red spring berries, with a hint of lavender and thyme, this is a classically styled Provence rosé. It seems to be filled with bright crystalline sunlight, and melodious troubadour song. A delicious summer sipper that has just enough stuffing to work with this dish.

Kendall-Jackson Jackson Estate, Santa Maria Valley (California) Chardonnay 2015


Richly fruited with a heady dash of buttery oak, this balanced but full-bodied Chardonnay paired expertly with this dish. It carries a hint of sweetness, something that only helped it perform so admirably. A great many California Chardonnays continue to taste blowsy and overblown. This one, masterfully crafted, does not.

Las Rocas de San Alejandro, Calatayud (Spain) Garnacha


(Imported by Las Rocas USA)


A super value, this Garnacha feels soft and supple on your palate. It offers succulent red (primarily cherry) fruit flavors, with just enough tannin for structure, and a satisfyingly long finish. It’s deliciously direct, so what it lacks in complexity it more than makes up for by providing so much unencumbered pleasure.



Pinot Noir



Sourced from fruit grown in various sites in eastern Oregon, this Pinot has a silky texture, ripe fruit enhanced by earthy, spicy undertones, and true depth on the palate. Though light-bodied, it’s not overly delicate, so easily complemented the spicy rub on our chicken.



(South Africa)

Chenin Blanc


(Imported by Quintessential LLC)


Filled with apple and pear fruit flavors, this wine delights due primarily to its crisp character, which makes it wonderfully refreshing. It has a steely edge that contributes complexity but also freshness, a quality that lightened the dish and made the meal true summer fare.