I'm so entrenched into the smoky world of barbecue that I sometimes feel like the only respectable and correct way to cook spare ribs is low and slow on a pit. Trust me—when you've tasted the saucy specimens of Cozy Corner you might agree that I'm on to something. But while those are undeniably tasty, this theory isn't exactly practical for a weeknight meal. Luckily, other cuisines disagree with me and have developed artful ways of cooking ribs quickly that come out just as delicious.
There is no better example than these gloriously messy sweet and sour ribs. This recipe comes by way of the Steamy Kitchen, who adapted it from Fuschia Dunlop's Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. The ribs are cooked in an aromatic liquid before being stir fried with more aromatics. Then they're covered in mixture of dark soy and sugar, which reduces to a sticky sweet sheen.
Though the recipe claims you could substitute balsamic vinegar for the Chinese black vinegar, they really are too different. The black vinegar provides the recipe with its much needed sour note. Otherwise it'd end up a little too sweet. I'd suggest a hunt through the local Asian market, or you can simply order it here. Also, the ribs need to be cut into two-inch sections. If you don't have a mammoth cleaver that can do the job, just ask the butcher to do for you.
- 1 slab (about 1 1/2 pounds) pork spare ribs
- 2-inch section ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch coins
- 6 green onions, chopped into 2-inch sections
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
Separate the ribs between the bones using a sharp chefs knife or cleaver. Using a cleaver, carefully chop these into 2-inch segments (or ask butcher to do it for you).
Place rib segments into medium-sized sauce pot. Cover with water. Bring to boil over high heat. Skim any scum that comes to surface with spoon. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer. Add Chinese rice wine, pinch of salt, and half of the ginger and green onions. Cook for 15 minutes, skimming occasionally. Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid, then strain ribs in a colander and discard ginger and green onions.
Pour oil into large wok set over high heat. When oil begins to smoke, add remaining ginger and green onions. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until fragrant. Add ribs. Cook for two minutes until they begin to brown.
Add reserved cooking liquid, soy sauce, sugar, black vinegar, and sesame oil. Simmer vigorously until reduced to glaze, about 5 minutes.
Serve ribs with white rice.