If there’s one thing I love sharing the most, it’s family recipes. There’s something comforting about a tried and true recipe that has been passed down through the years, tasted and tweaked as it made its way onto each family table. This one is Sarah’s, and it’s a one pot wonder – her family’s version of delicious bite sized pork ribs that are often on the menu at yum cha or Chinese restaurants.
These are moreishly addictive – salty, sticky and slightly sweet – perfect eaten over a bowl of steaming hot rice. Like all family recipes, it keeps well in the fridge and the best part is that these pork ribs taste even better the day after.
There are a few specialty ingredients, but you don’t need the full array of sauces that are shown in this picture – it’s just a reference point for what Sarah has in her pantry. That’s the beauty of real family recipes, that they are adapted to use what’s on hand, so use what you have in your pantry. The two most important sauces you need for these pork ribs are fermented bean paste (also called taucu which adds a depth and flavour, and plum sauce for sweetness. The saltiness of Asian sauces can vary widely between brands, and fermented bean paste is especially spicy, so make sure to taste before serving – adding more sugar or plum sauce as necessary.
I imagine that this dish would work well in a slow-cooker too – a set and forget meal that bubbles away throughout the day – just make sure to cook your aromatics thoroughly before placing into the slow cooker so that they release their flavour.
- 1kg pork spare ribs, cut into 1½ inch pieces
- ¾ tbsp cornflour
- ¾ tbsp thick soy sauce/cooking caramel
- ½ tbsp sugar
- 100ml vegetable or other cooking oil
- 10 small red onions/shallots, cut into fine dice
- 5 pips garlic, cut into fine dice
- 2 pieces of thumb sized ginger (approx. 50g), cut into fine dice
- 2 tbsp fermented bean paste (taucu)
- 3 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- ¾ tbsp oyster sauce
- 3½ tbsp plum sauce
- ½ tbsp light soy sauce
- red chillies and flat leaf parsley (also called Chinese celery), for garnish
- Wash the pork, then place in a colander so excess water can drain.
- Marinade the ribs with cornflour, thick soy sauce and sugar. Set aside for 20 minutes, or allow to marinate overnight.
- Heat oil in a large heavy based pot. Add diced shallots, ginger and garlic; cook until fragrant – about 10 minutes – stirring constantly to stop the aromatics from sticking to the pot.
- Add the fermented bean paste, spare ribs and chilli and cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Add enough water to just cover the ribs (approx. 500ml), oyster sauce, plum sauce and light soy sauce.
- Simmer on low heat, with the pot slightly uncovered, for 1 – 1½ hours until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened.
- Taste and add more plum sauce as necessary – the sauce should be salty with a hint of sweetness.
- Increase heat to medium to cook the sauce down further, stirring constantly. If necessary, add more cornflour mixed with water to thicken further.