Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sweet & Sour Pork Ribs (Sichuan style)

When I came to the US at age 13, my grandma made sure I was bringing with me not just the clothes in my luggage and their dreams of me having a better life, but something from home as well... something to remind me of my birth home, of the loved ones I left behind, especially the love she and Grandpa had for me.

For weeks before my departure, Grandma would make me practice making Chinese dumplings from scratch - mixing dough, turning dough into dumpling skins, and mix ground meat with vegi and sauce. I made so many dumplings that I couldn't bear to eat another for six months afterwards. :-)

In my luggage, she also packed two Sichuan homecooking books. My home province (state) is called Sichuan and famous for its delicious and spicy food. She didn't have enough time to teach me everything, so this is the backup plan (maybe?).

These two books have moved with me from state to state over the past 20 years, always found their way onto my bookshelves, quietly sleeping... until now.

I took them out last week and started bookmarking recipes that Danny & I both would like. They are now filled with colorful tags of possibilities. To start off, I tried the Sweet & Sour Pork Ribs.

Before we begin, just note quick note - Chinese measurement is very different from US ones. These are native Chinese scales passed down from ancient days and are still used today. However, since I am not familiar with the precious quantity, I pretty much wing it, with a bit Chinese cooking experience behind me. I'll try to give you the best judgement of scale as I can in this post, because the ribs turned out EXCELLENT! :-)

Step 1: - Babyback ribs, about 1.5 pds. If you can, ask the store deli to cut the ribs horizontally in half first, then you can separate each rib by the bone at home (as shown in photo below). This will allow the meat to absorb plenty of juice later.

Step 2: - Cut 1 tbs of ginger and garlic in flat thin pieces. Hand split 4 or 5 dried red pepper. Mix them with 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/3 cup of soy sauce in a small bowl. (If you have cooking wine, add 1/2 tsp of it.)

Step 3:
- Put 1/4 cup of cooking oil in a wok on high heat; wait until it's 60% hot to add the ribs.
- Stir the ribs so all sides are brown and no more water from the meat is present.

Step 4:
- Add the bowl containing ginger, garlic, dried red pepper, salt, and soy sauce. Stir to mix it with the ribs.
- Add 1 pd of chicken broth to the wok, or the appropriate amount to cover the ribs. Mix well.

Step 5:
- Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 50 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid things stick to the bottom of the wok.
- Towards the last 10 minutes of the 50 minutes, stir every 5 mins.
- Cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Stir every 2 mins. By now, all the broth is cooked way and evaporated.

Step 6:
- Add 2 tbs of sugar, 1/4 cup of vinegar, 5 green scallions (cut into 2 inches) to wok. Stir well with ribs.
- Mix 1 tbs of cornstarch and 1/4 of water in a bowl. Add to the wok and stir well.
- Taste the sauce. Add more sugar or vinegar if stronger taste is desired.
- When all the liquid is cooked away, your ribs are ready!

Step 7: - Serve with rice and your favorite vegi. The meat should be soft and full of seasoning. Don't be shy, use your fingers! ^_^

Red wine compliment Chinese dishes well, especially these tasty ribs!

If you happen to have leftovers, store them in the container in the fridge. Re-heat in microwave for 1.5 minutes (or less depending on quantity) and they are just as good.

Enjoy and let me know how yours turn out.

Happy Cooking!


Danny said...

I normally avoid ribs because they are often tough or turn into little pieces that get stuck in my teeth.

These ribs were the opposite!! Nearly fall-off-the-bone soft and delicious! If ribs aren't your favorite dish, make this because it will change your mind!

Renée said...

Ok you've given me a reason to buy a wok :) I've thought about it before but thought that we don't really cook enough dishes that would need it. I want those ribs!! They look SOOOOO GOOOOD!!!!