This Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs dish is a mouth-watering appetizer and goes-great-with-cold-beer type of dish from China. Normally, the ribs are deep fried, but I wanted to cook a version that didn’t require me to waste 3 cups of cooking oil. If you do want to deep fry the ribs, Curiously Ravenous has a recipe from Ye Ye (Grandfather).
And I found the perfect recipe in Fushia Dunlop’s Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province. When I first heard about Fushia Dunlop and how authentic and thorough her recipes were, I immediately bought this book and the Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking. If you’re a fan of Chinese cooking, I definitely recommend both books. Ms. Dunlop has another book out which is a memoir, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.
About Dark Soy Sauce
Dark Soy Sauce is not regular soy sauce. it’s labeled Thick or Dark Soy Sauce and it’s more intense, sweeter and less salty than regular soy sauce as it contain molasses. Dark Soy Sauce is used in many Chinese braised dishes.
About Chinese Black Vinegar
Chinese Black Vinegar is an essential ingredient that adds the “sour” to the Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs recipe. The best black vinegar is from the Chinkiang Province of China. My family loves to dribble the tiniest spoonful into my Mom’s Famous Crispy Egg Rolls (take a bite from one end of the egg roll, spoon a few drops inside.) You can substitute with balsamic vinegar.
About the ribs
Traditionally, this recipe is made from spare ribs cut into small, 1 1/2″ pieces. Sometimes these are called “rib tips” at American grocery stores. At Chinese markets, these ribs are pre-cut, and packaged like this.
Just use kitchen shears or a knife to cut between the bones to get rib tips.
If you are not near an Asian market, you’ll either have to ask your butcher to cut them for you (don’t try to do this yourself at home….you’ll just ruin your nice knives), or you can use baby back ribs, and leave them whole, which is what I did.
Chinese Sweet & Sour Spare Ribs Recipe (tang cu pai gu)
- 1 ½ pounds meaty spare ribs
- 2 inch section of ginger sliced into 1/2-inch "coins" and smashed
- 6 stalks green onions cut into 2-inch sections
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
- generous pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons high heat cooking oil
- 2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Place the ribs in a saucepan of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim the water, then add half of the ginger, half of the green onions, the Chinese rice wine and salt. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes until the meat is cooked and tender. Continue skimming the pot. Strain and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid.
- Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat until very hot. Pour in the cooking oil and add the remaining ginger slices and green onions. Stir fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the strained spare ribs and stir fry for 2 minutes in the fragrant oil.
- Add 1 cup of the cooking liquid, the dark soy sauce and sugar. Simmer over a medium flame, spooning the liquid over the ribs, until the sauce has reduced to a heavy, syrupy consistency.
- Add the vinegar and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until the flavors have fused. Off the heat, stir in the sesame oil.