Chinese restaurants offer various varieties of spare ribs. Barbecue ribs seem to be the most popular, but you can also get the drier spiced salt ribs, ribs in plum sauce, or Peking spare ribs (sometimes called King Do). In restaurants the Peking ribs are usually coated in an orangey-brown sticky sauce and have a unique flavour of sweet and sour richness with a warm spicy background.
The recipe for the ribs is fairly straightforward, but you need to plan ahead because they take a lot of marinating and cooking time. Whether you buy beef or pork ribs, get the best quality you can with a nice amount of meat on them.
Quantity – I served two racks of ribs between 6 people as an interim course between starter and main. It looked like quite a lot of ribs and was a large serving, but they all disappeared fairly quickly. If your ribs are long you can chop them in half with a meat cleaver to get extra portions. As a starter you should probably allow 2-3 ribs per person.
Wash your ribs before marinating, pat them dry with kitchen paper, and divide them up so that they are easier to manage.
Marinade recipe (enough for two racks):
250mls vegetable stock (either from stock cubes, powder, a carton or freshly made)
5 tablespoons of brown sugar
half a teaspoon of five spice powder
4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
1 teaspoon of finely grated ginger
4 tablespoons of light soy sauce
2 cups of tomato ketchup (I used Heinz)
2 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
60-80mls red wine (optional)
Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl and marinate the ribs for at least 24 hours, I marinated mine for 2 days in the fridge, the bowl covered with cling wrap.
The next stage is to boil them. You don’t have to do this but it really makes them tender, so I definitely advise it. Pour the ribs and marinade into a large covered saucepan and bring them to the boil, then simmer them for 15-20 minutes.
Next prepare a large baking tray – for ease of cleaning I lined mine with foil and then placed baking parchment on top of the foil – this avoids the result of gooey bakeware which needs soaking to remove the sticky residue.
Place the ribs in the tray, make sure that each one is coated with marinade but not swimming in it. Loosely cover the tray with foil and roast in a preheated oven at 180-190 deg C for 70-90 minutes. The longer you cook them the more tender they will be. The meat should fall away from the bone quite easily.
Add honey to the remaining marinade (I added about 6 tablespoons) and baste them with fresh marinade about every 15 minutes during roasting. You can remove the foil cover 15 mins before the end of cooking. Once they are done, you may wish to garnish them with sesame seeds and chopped spring onion before serving.
Serve with good wine and good company.