Chinese Take Away - Capital Spare Ribs in OK Sauce
Updated: Feb 20
I love Chinese take away food. Why do I say Chinese Take Away food and not simply Chinese food? Because I like all the naughty dishes. Like Sesame Prawn Toast, Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings, Peking Duck and Crispy Chilli Beef, all smothered in that sweet fruity and sour sticky sauce. I'm sure these dishes have been adjusted for a western palate and barely resemble the original Chinese dishes they were derived from.
Don't get me wrong, there is a time and a place for genuine Chinese fare and there's nothing wrong with a bowl of steamed vegetables, tofu and plain rice (maybe when you’re suffering with acid reflux?) but if you’ve already read some of our recipes, you know that’s just not how we roll at MCF.
I’m a big fan of ribs, hold up, let me rephrase that, I’m a big fan of ribs cooked really well.
They are not the easiest thing to master but once you have a couple of insider secrets, you can get your rib game down pat. A lot of Chinese fast food places tend to boil there ribs before cooking. I think that is partially because it’s seen as sterilizing the ribs and drawing out any toxins in the bones (this process is part of the secret of making a great Vietnamese Pho) and partially so they can prepare large volumes of ribs efficiently in advance.
I’m not against boiling meat, it’s been done successfully for literally 1000’s of years and a good Irish Beef Stew is a thing to behold, but if you’re going to boil meat and not make the broth part of the recipe, then science would dictate you’re taking some flavor away. I’m not qualified to comment on whether boiling out pork bone toxins is really necessary, but in the name of our readers, I’m willing to take the risk.
So, now we’ve got passed the bone boiling waffle stage, onto the plan.
First, a word on selecting ribs. Given you are primarily buying the bit you don’t eat, what is attached to it is vitally important.
I’ve noticed my local grocery stores have taken to pretty much removing all the meat on the top of the rack leaving just the meat in-between the bones in a battle to keep consumer prices down (I'm absolutely sure it's not to make more money). That doesn't work for me; I want ribs that I can bite, not pick.
So I recommend buying a large piece of Pork Belly with the ribs still attached and butchering it yourself (I’m not sure you could actually call what i do butchering, but the meat is definitely butchered afterwards!).
This is a pretty cool way to do it because your objective is to turn one piece of meat into two meals; the first being a juicy rack of ribs, the second being a nice piece of Pork Belly for Sunday dinner with lots of that sweet sweet crackling (See our Pork Belly Recipe for the secret to perfect crackling). Pick the right piece of meat with that in mind and you are left with a juicy rack of ribs that will easily feed two with a nice layer of top meat on Friday night, and still have a perfectly acceptable joint of meat for the whole family on Sunday.
Ok so now we’ve established how to procure a prime set of pork ribs, on with the recipe:
Ingredients - For The Ribs
1 Rack Of Pork Belly Ribs
6 tsp Chinese 5 Spice Powder
2 tsp Garlic Powder
2 tsp Black Pepper
2 tsp Salt
½ tsp Chilli Powder - Optional
Layout a large sheet of tin foil (enough to completely wrap up the ribs) and place the ribs in the centre.
Mix all the spices together in a bowl and sprinkle over the ribs on both sides (if you have a flour shaker, that works really well) and rub it into the meat for a couple of minutes.
Once completely covered, wrap the ribs up in the tin foil making sure it’s as sealed as you can get it (you want to keep us much of the steam from cooking in as you can) and place in a low oven (around 120C / 250f) on a metal baking tray.
You now have at least an hour to make your sauce.
After about an hour in the oven, carefully unwrap the foil so you can inspect the ribs. It will look kinda grey, watery in not hugely appetizing at this stage but fear not. What you’re looking for is that the meat has shrunk and exposed the bones. You’re looking for the meat to have exposed around an inch of bone at each side at the largest bones and then it’s ready.
If it needs more cooking, just pop it back in the oven and check every half hour until you get to the right stage. It shouldn’t take any longer than 2 hours but may be good to go after an hour depending on your oven and the amount of meat on the ribs.
The main reason for cooking ribs this way is that it's the equivalent of steaming or boiling which makes the meat that fall off the bone style, but keeps the flavour of the bone stock. As the ribs dry out and cook, they pull the juice back in instead of it constantly dripping away. It's a pretty fail-safe way of getting a clean bone cook on your ribs every time.
Ingredients – For The Sauce
½ cup of Tomato Ketchup
¼ cup of Brown Sauce (HP brand is the best)
½ cup of sugar
1 tsp Chinese 5 Spice Powder
2 tsp Soy Sauce
1 cup of water
1 Onion, peeled,. halved and sliced
1 Green Bell Pepper / Capsicum halved and sliced
1 Tsp Corn Starch / Corn Flour
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
Mix the Ketchup, Brown Sauce, Soy Sauce, 5 Spice, sugar and water in a sauce pan on a medium heat, stirring continuously until all the sugar has dissolved and the sauce is at a steady boil.
At this point, the sauce should begin to thicken. If it’s still very watery, mix the corn starch with a small amount of water and pour into the hot sauce and continue to stir until it thickens. If the sauce gets too thick, just add a little water.
Set aside until your ribs are cooked
Bringing The Dish Together
Take your partially cooked ribs remove the foil and place them on the baking tray.
Switch on the broiler / grill to heat up.
Place the ribs under the hot grill / broiler until they brown a little, remembering to turn and brown both side a.
Once browned, baste the ribs with some of your sauce and pop back under the grill / broiler until the sauce is bubbling and thick on the ribs.
Set the ribs aside to cool a little.
Heat a wok or large frying pan and fry your onion and garlic in the sesame oil quickly.
Whilst it’s frying, slice your ribs into individual ribs.
Add your remaining sauce into your wok ad toss with the onion and pepper.
Place the ribs into the wok and stir until they are coated in the sauce and hot.
Serve immediately with fried rice or noodles (or even French Fries for a guilty pleasure).
This dish might sound a little labour intensive but once you’ve done it you’ll see that it’s actually really easy and well worth the little extra effort.
Tips & Tricks
You can make a batch of the sauce and freeze it so that next time you want it. It’s just a matter of cooking those ribs and throwing them in the sauce.
When the ribs have finished their initial cooking in the oven, you can actually pull the bones out leaving just the rib meat. Mixed with a little of the sauce, this makes an amazing Chinese style version of Pulled Pork
If you have left over ribs and sauce, pick the meat and use it as the stuffing for steamed bao buns (Dim Sum) for a great way to make a second meal out of left-overs
The rib cooking part of the recipe is the perfect way to pre-prep ribs ready for as barbecue,just drop the 5 Spice Powder from the recipe and use BBQ sauce for basting and you're switched up to Texas Style!
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