Chinese pork spare ribs
I’ve been eating these spare ribs ever since I graduated to solids. My mum used to make this dish every Chinese New Year and a few times in between – now she’s just happy to pass on the recipe. It’s the kind of dish I didn’t really appreciate when I was younger when I preferred meat that was lean, off the bone, easily identifiable and more importantly came with no surprises. I’m still a little like that but these days I love the flavour you get by slow-cooking the cheaper cuts of meat – and I’m now able to navigate my way around a few bones!
These spare ribs are absolutely packed with flavour and require very little work, just a little no-hassle marinating and some slow cooking and you’ve got a meal that will equal or surpass anything you could get in a restaurant. The ribs end up a little sweet, a little sticky and oh so tender. The fat even renders away in the final stage of cooking so that all you’re left with is meat that falls off the bone. The beauty of it lies in its simplicity. For what tastes like a complex list of ingredients, the recipe itself is not an arduous list of spices and specialty items. I’ll be honest with you, there a couple ingredients that you may not have in your cupboards, but once you’ve got them (thanks to the local Asian grocer), they will keep an age and be ready for the next time Chinese New Year rolls around.
1.2 kg pork spare ribs (not American-style), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp ground bean sauce
1 tsp dark soya sauce
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice
½ tsp ground white pepper
- Place the pork in a heatproof dish and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Leave for a couple of minutes so that the scum can float to the top then remove pork and pat dry with kitchen towel. This step essentially cleans the meat and removes any bone dust.
- Mix together all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the pork and stir to coat evenly. Cover the dish and marinate overnight.
- Once marinated, empty the pork and marinade into a large saucepan. Add enough cold water to just barely cover the pork.
- Cover the pan and place on a medium to high heat and bring to an aggressive simmer for 20–25 minutes. This stage tenderises the meat.
- Take the lid off the pan and allow the liquid to evaporate, stirring occasionally. This will take about 15–20 mins. Test the meat – if it doesn’t yield easily under pressure and start to break up, then add a little more water and continue simmering. Depending on the size of your ribs, it can take 45 mins to 1 hour for the meat to become really tender.
- When meat is almost falling off the bone, evaporate off all the liquid. You should be left with a thick, sticky sauce that clings to the ribs. Most of the fat will have rendered out. If you don’t want to eat this (don’t tell mum and I told you), you can easily pour off the fat.
I would serve these simply with steamed rice and Chinese greens as the ribs are quite rich, but if you like fresh egg noodles, they too would be a fantastic accompaniment. Enjoy!