Sweet,spicy, sticky ribs. Another piece of evidence that shows the glory of the pig.
Until last week I’d never attempted spare ribs. Don’t know why. Maybe it’s the fascination I’ve always had for the bit that sits on top. The magnificent cut that is belly pork. But Aina had a fever, and that fever could only be cured by ribs. After a brief trawl of the internet I realised that most recipes used some spices (Chinese five spice), tomato puree/ketchup, vinegar, honey and soy sauce. There were other ingredients bandied about but this was not about finding a recipe. It was about de-constructing the dish and re-building it for us, based on what we liked, what might work, and what was in the cupboard.
I have now made this dish three times. A tad excessive for a week you might think but that’s how I roll. It’s quite nice.
1. Pork ribs (all about the same size) – 2kg
2. Tomato ketchup – 200g
3. Light soy sauce (e.g. Kikkoman) – 50ml
4. Dark soy sauce – 50ml
5. Chinkian black vinegar – 50ml
6. Runny honey (e.g. Eucalyptus) – 150ml
7. Marmite (XO or normal) – 2 heaped table spoons
8. Sichuan pepper (ground) – 2 heaped table spoons
9. Chilli powder – 1 heaped table spoon
10. Roasted chilli and garlic powder- 3 heaped table spoons
11. Ginger (grated fine) – 50-75g (a big thumb)
12. Garlic (finely chopped) – 4 fat cloves
13. Sesame oil – 1 table spoon
14. Freshly ground black pepper
II. Other stuff
1. A big dish to prepare the marinade and to marinade the ribs (not metal)
2. Paint brush (new)
3. Spice grinder/pestle and mortar
3. Oil (ground nut/vegetable/sunflower)
4. Oven tray (with deep enough sides to catch the juice from the ribs during initial roasting).
III. A precursor
Before I lay out the recipe there a few pointers it might be worth mentioning.
I don’t really work with weights and measurements. I add ingredients and judge what else to add by taste, smell and sight. With the marinade for the ribs, you need to get the consistency gloopy so it will coat the ribs.
I rarely cook a dish the same way twice. I’ve used some roasted chilli and garlic flakes (that I’ve ground to a powder) that you should be able to find in a decent Asian supermarket. If not buy some chilli oil and dried fried garlic and use in its place (adjusting quantities to taste).
This dish is a bit of a labour of love. Give yourself a couple of hours to do it properly. It will feed 4.
IV. The recipe
1. Dry fry the Sichuan pepper corns over a medium heat until they start to release their oils (about 5 minutes). Remember to shake the pan around so you don’t burn the peppers contact point with the pan. Grind the pepper to a powder.
2. Peel and fine grate the ginger. Finely chop the peeled garlic.
3. Mix all of the marinade ingredients together. If it’s looking too thin, up the ketchup, honey and Marmite. Adjust the chilli to how hot you like it.
4. Add the ribs and coat completely in the marinade. Marinade for 30 mins.
5. Set oven to 200 degrees C (180 fan assisted). Put the tray in the oven to heat up a couple minutes before the end of the marinade.
6. Take the hot oven tray out add a little oil and lay all the ribs meat side up. Reserve the excess marinade. Put the ribs in the middle of the oven and roast for 25-30 mins (depending on how fat the ribs are).
7. Once the ribs have been roasted, drain all the juice from the ribs back into the marinade, stir thoroughly and then transfer to a large frying pan and simmer down to a thick gloop on the hob. This will take about 10 mins on a high heat. You’ll need to keep an eye on it and stir to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
8. Put the grill on high.
9. Once the final marinade has reduced to about 1/3 you can start using it to paint the ribs. Make sure you get all three sides of each rib coated. You should still have half of the marinade left after this first coat of marinade.
10. Put the ribs right under the grill and grill for about 10 mins. Obviously watch them and make sure they don’t burn, but you want a nice chargrilled look.
11. After 10, flip them on their backs, paint with the marinade and grill for another 5-10 mins (depending on how much meat in on the underside).
12. For a final grill turn them meat side up, final paint and grill for 5 mins or until they look ready.
13. Rest for 15 mins, then eat.