Garlic Spare Ribs

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Steamed Garlic Spare Ribs

In the fall of 1999 I took a class at the Cooktique Cooking School, entitled "The couples that wok together".

The instructor was Norman Weinstein, CCP.  We've taken some of his courses before, and look forward to many more.  One of his specialties is Chinese cooking, and this recipe was one we prepared in class, and I thought it was about time I did it at home.  

The black beans provide the predominant flavor, and there is a little bit of spice from the pepper flakes and scallions.  The texture is very interesting, the pork tender, but with a coating of fried cornstarch covering it.  The dish reheats very well and some folk around here considered it better on the second day.

Click on the photos for a larger view.

The two platters above are shown with a side dish of some shitake mushrooms stir-fried with some yellow garlic chives.

Now for the rib recipe, copyright Norman Weinstein, 1993, which I've.  annotated (in italics) and illustrated.

  • 1 rack spare ribs 2 to 2-1/2 lbs. top bone removed
  • about 1/2 cup cornstarch to coat the ribs
  • 5-6 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. minced ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. fermented black beans
  • 1/2 tsp. chili pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup diced scallions
  • 3 Tbsp. thin soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. dry sherry or Chinese rice wine 
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. oriental sesame oil I Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup diced scallions for garnish

Have the butcher cut off the back (chine) bone and cut the remaining slab of ribs ACROSS THE BONES into 1 inch strips. (These ribs are readily available cut into strips at oriental markets). Have the back piece cleaved into bite sized pieces. At home, cut the strips into individual pieces. Place in a bowl. Coat with cornstarch. Mix well.

Prepare a two tiered bamboo or aluminum steamer

Soak the black beans in warm water for five minutes. Drain and combine with the garlic, ginger, pepper flakes, and the diced scallions.

Combine the soy sauce, wine, vinegar, sesame oil and sugar.  

I used brandy instead of rice wine, because typical Chinese cooking rice wine is similar to domestic cooking wines, that is they are pretty awful wines with salt added.  So unless you can get "real" wine (no salt) you're better off using a good brandy, sherry, etc instead.

Add the oil to the wok. Heat to 375 degrees. Add 1/2 the rib pieces. Deep-fry 40-50 seconds (longer if necessary) to set the coating. Remove to a waiting platter.

Note: In the photograph of all the ingredients above, the ribs had already been coated with cornstarch and deep fried.  I was doing some deep frying of some salted shrimp the night before, and decided to do the ribs at the same time, and park them in the refrigerator overnight before continuing with the stir-frying and steaming.

Reheat the oil to 375 degrees and cook the remaining ribs in the same manner. Drain the oil into a stainless bowl. 

Add 3 Tbsp. back to the wok and heat for several seconds. Add the minced ingredients. Stir briefly over high heat. 

Stir the sauce well then add down and around the sides of the wok and stir to mix.

Add the ribs. Stir to coat with the sauce. 

Remove the contents to two 9 inch plates. Place in the steamer over rapidly boiling water and cook for 45 minutes. Replenish the water in the steamer as necessary.  The photo above and below show the top level of the steamer uncovered.  There is a second level below the first with another plate full of ribs, and the entire stack gets covered during steaming.

Remove the plates from the steamer and place on larger plates. 

The photo shows me using a plate grabber that is very useful for removing plated from the confines of a hot steamer.  The tool is available at many oriental food stores for about $1.50.

Top the ribs with the 1/4 cup diced scallions. Serve immediately or let cool. Cover, refrigerate, and re-steam the following day to reheat.

VARIATIONS: Add bite sized pieces of red pepper or, for a very authentic Chinese flavor, bite sized pieces of bitter melon just before adding to the steamer.

Copyright 1999 by Zenreich Systems. All rights reserved.
Revised: December 13, 2017


All text and photographs copyright 1999 - 2017  Zenreich Systems. All rights reserved.