Chinese five-spice is pungent and encompasses all five tastes—sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami—and uses five different spices. This dynamic Asian seasoning is a mixture of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds. It’s easy to make at home, but it’s ok to purchase it premade too. I usually pair it with additional sweet ingredients because it is so powerful.
2 pounds beef tri-tip, trimmed
1 small yellow onion, quartered
2 cups low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
4 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
4 Cara Cara oranges, 2 zested and juiced
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4-1/2 cup pineapple juice
2-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 heaping tablespoon of Sambal Garlic-Chili Paste
1/4 bunch of cilantro, stems removed (set a few leaves aside for garnish)
Kosher Salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Set aside.
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground Chinese five-spice
2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch
4 to 6 green onions, chopped thin on a diagonal for garnish
Sesame seeds, for garnish
Before you begin, trim the beef of any excess fat. Season the beef on both sides with Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Set aside.
In the bowl of your food processor, combine the remaining ingredients, except 2 of the oranges, the zest, green onions, sesame seeds. Blitz until liquid.
Place beef tri-tip in a resealable container or zip lock and coat well with 1/2 the liquid marinade. Refrigerate for a minimum of 8-12 hours. Add zest to the remaining liquid, store in a sealed jar until grill time.
Preheat grill. Clean and oil the grill grates. Heat the remaining sauce until thickened, keeping a close eye on it to ensure no burning. The sugars in the recipe will torch fast. Strain and return to the stove.
Remove beef from marinade, and be sure to discard any of this remaining liquid.
Grill the tri-tip over direct medium heat, occasionally flipping for about 25 to 45 minutes, depending on the weight of the cut and your preferred internal temperature. For the last ten minutes of grill time, move the tri-tip to indirect heat and begin basting with a portion of the sauce you have on the stove until the tri-tip is entirely glazed, charred, and sticky.
Slice the remaining oranges in half and place cut-side down on the hot oiled grill grates. Cook oranges for about 3-5 minutes until they become somewhat charred, then remove the oranges and set them aside.
When the beef is ready, remove it from the grill and allow it to rest for about 8-10 minutes. Be sure to carve across the grain, place on a serving platter, drizzle with remaining sauce, sprinkle with sesame seeds, cilantro leaves, green onions and grilled Cara Cara oranges. .
Serve with steamed white rice.
Note: If you would like the sauce a bit sweeter, add another tablespoon or two of sugar to the remaining sauce and continue to simmer until the sugar has melted. A bit spicier, add a bit more Chinese chili paste a bit more bold and fragrent, add additional five-spice.
The mixture should be able to coat the back of a spoon. If not, make a slurry 2:1 cornstarch and liquid – stir into the sauce. Carefully heat to a quick boil to activate thickening. If you have clumps, strain the sauce through a fine sieve- no big deal. Remove from heat and serve on the side or pour over top of sliced tri-tip. It’s that simple!