This recipe is a hybrid of two recipes given to me by Jonathan H. Liu and my friend Ivy Chan. Jonathan, an American-born Chinese, has been learning how to cook from his mom so that he can make the dishes he grew up with. He now has a good repertoire of simple, reliable stand-bys. He declares this dish has “one of the best ease-of-preparation to tastiness ratios.”
1-2-3-4-5 Sticky Spareribs
If you’ve ever thought that Chinese recipes were complicated, this dish dispels all preconceptions. Not only is it easy to remember, it’s almost effortless to prepare. To feed more people, just increase the ratios in proportion to the meat. For a tangier taste, switch the proportions of vinegar and sugar. Try it with beef short ribs too.
Time: 45 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
2 pounds pork ribs (spare ribs or country-style, cut into chunks)
1 tablespoon alcohol (Chinese Shaoxing wine or sherry)
2 tablespoons vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
5 tablespoons water
In a large wide-mouthed heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, combine the rice wine, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and water. Add the spareribs and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.
If the meat dries out and starts to burn, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time. The ribs are ready when the meat is tender and glossed with a sticky, reddish-brown glaze and the liquid has been absorbed. Serve with freshly steamed rice and a vegetable side dish.
If there’s still a lot of liquid at the end of the cooking time (this can happen if the meat contains a lot of water), remove the meat and raise the heat to high. Cook until the liquid turns into a thick, sticky sauce. Add the ribs back into the pot and toss to coat. You can also broil the ribs on high for 3 to 4 minutes to create a nice burnished crust while you reduce the sauce.