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Oven-Barbecued Spareribs with Chinese-Style Barbecue Sauce -- Try This Now!!!

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Sometimes cooking for A. can be –– well –– frustrating.

He is a busy man with a lot on his mind, and while I hate to say it, from time to time he forgets to, ahem, show his appreciation.

Or to even comment on the meal that I have prepared.

I suppose, if one looks at this optimistically, the tradeoff is that when he does dole out the praise I know that he is sincere.

Like the time I made a pork and apricot dish and A. quipped that this was a dish that Jonathan Gold needed to know about. It was that good.

No small compliment!

The other night I cooked up a batch of oven-barbecued spareribs with Chinese-style barbecue sauce. When A. tasted them, he said that if I ever opened a restaurant this dish would absolutely need to be on the menu.

This is huge, especially from A.

Thanks, baby!

He's right.

These ribs, thanks to the Chinese-style barbecue sauce, are –– to take advantage of an overused word that I typically hate –– phenomenal!

Believe me, this is not overstating the case.

My mom found this recipe in the June 1981 issue of Gourmet. I was nine years old then, and she's been making it ever since. Naturally, I have since stolen it from her.

The magazine suggests that this is a perfect dish for a bachelor party. Perhaps. Really, any celebration would do.

Better idea: Halve the recipe and eat it with your husband for a few meals over the course of a week or so.

If you like pork and have a strong appreciation for butter, pay attention. If you love spicy, tangy, garlicky barbecue sauces, start your grocery list.

There are not that many ingredients in this dish, and the preparation of the sauce and the pork ribs does not take overly long. Cooking the ribs, however, does take a while.

I've made these ribs many times, so this time I didn't bother to read through the recipe. Mistake! I forgot about the lengthy cooking time, and Fe and I were chained to the oven all afternoon and evening.

So worth it though. And burning myself twice in the same place, on the scar of another burn from twelve years ago? –– Worth it too.

The recipe instructs you to use bone-in country style spareribs. I've had trouble finding them with the bone in here in Los Angeles.

Alternatively, I've used boneless country pork ribs with great success. The meat is very moist due to the high fat content in the pork, to the process of blanching the ribs prior to baking, and to the liberal use of sauce during the baking process.

There is a not insubstantial amount of butter in the sauce. Two sticks! I wouldn't dream of cutting back on this. The richness of the butter balances the heat of the chile-garlic sauce and the acidity of the rice-wine vinegar. The ample measure of brown sugar (two cups!) ties all of the flavors together.

The result is a sauce that thrills your nostrils as the chile and vinegar evaporate during the cooking process. It is salty and robust from the soy, and tangy and bright due to the tomatoes and vinegar. Sweet -- but not too much so -- from the sugar.

This sauce strikes a perfect pitch of flavors.

Thank goodness the recipe makes nine cups, because you will notice the sauce slowly begin to disappear as you eat up spoonful after spoonful, while pretending to baste.

I always serve these ribs with rice. Simply put, I want something else over which to ladle the sauce.

This time, I also served roasted asparagus and Japanese negi onions.

This was a little rich for my taste, but A. loved it. I would prefer an acidic asian slaw or sharply dressed salad to offset the heavy dose of fat that comes with these ribs.

These ribs are especially good for entertaining, because you can do everything in advance and finish the ribs off with a final thirty minutes in the oven right before the guests arrive. Walking in the door, they will undoubtedly be enticed by the sweet and vinegary aroma that is filling the house.

And when they sit down and devour the sticky, messy, pork?

You'll almost certainly be guaranteed a heavy calendar-load of dinner parties in the future.

Oven-Barbecued Spareribs with Chinese-Style Barbecue Sauce

12 pounds country-style spareribs, bone-in

4 1/2 cups chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
3 cups tomato purée
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup rice vinegar
6 tablespoons chile paste with garlic (Sambal Oelek)

In a large heavy stainless steel or enameled saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 15 minutes, until softened. Add the tomato purée, brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chile paste, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Makes about 9 cups.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Trim the excess fat from the ribs. Leaving the ribs attached, blanch them in batches in a large pot of simmering water for 30 minutes, and drain them. Arrange the ribs meaty side up in 2 baking pans large enough to hold them in one layer and bake them for 20 minutes.

Lower the oven to 350 degrees.

Brush the ribs lightly on both sides with the sauce and bake them meaty side down for 20 minutes. Turn the ribs meaty side up, baste them generously with the sauce, and bake them for 20 minutes. Transfer the ribs to a cutting board, cut between the bones to separate them, and return the ribs meaty side up to the pans. Baste the ribs generously with the sauce and bake them for 20 minutes. (The ribs may be made ahead up to this point. Reheat the ribs in a 350 degree oven, turning them once for 30 minutes, or until they are heated through.)

Serves 8.

Jacqueline F.
Posted with photos:
http://rocketlunch.blogspot.com/

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  1. I'm going to try your Chinese-style sauce with the possible addition of some 5 spice powder and hoisin. I'll cook the ribs in the oven and skip the boiling part. I do have a question though, the recipe title says spareribs and then the ingredient list calls for country-style ribs. I'll probably go with the spareribs or back ribs, depending on what's on sale, but it is curious.

    2 Replies
    1. re: John E.

      John: with all due respect, the boiling part's all about turning the ribs into a different sort of canvas upon which to paint with the sauce. It's a different flavor -- and you don't at all lose much porky-ness by doing it; just the nasty, heavy part of the grease.

      1. re: John E.

        John-
        I should probably change the title. Good point. I have always used country style ribs and that is what the original recipe calls for.

        I'd be very interested to hear how the variations turn out, but I would highly recommend trying the recipe as is. I am not kidding around when I say that it is brilliant just the way it is!

      2. I had this dish at a dinner party a few years ago. My wife (who's Taiwanese) raved about it and asked me to get the recipe. I've been making a version of it (with a mixture of butter and chicken fat) that's otherwise very true to the original. I don't bother to bake the ribs "naked," and I use much lower heat, for a longer time.

        IMHO, there's no need for any other "Asian" seasoning (some are tempted to add 5 spice or Sichuan peppercorns or some other condiment). Also, in a pinch, I cut down on the vinegar and use ketchup instead of the tomato puree. I add a little orange juice to the ketchup. And another thing -- I don't use rice vinegar, I use plain old white vinegar for this recipe.

        Occasionally we'll have the ribs all cut up into "riblets" to offer up slightly more surface area for the seasoning...

        I agree with jacqueline f -- this recipe is indeed a home run and she'd knock it out of the park if she offered 'em for dinner in her restaurant (and perhaps on a banh mi sandwich at lunchtime, sliced up).

        2 Replies
        1. re: shaogo

          shaogo- i love the idea of cutting the ribs into riblets! more surface area for the seasoning is exactly what i am looking for! thanks!

          1. re: jacqueline f

            The Chinese cut ribs into little meaty-bony pieces all the time (we sauce ours with black beans, chili and garlic). They're a mess but at the same time quite fun to eat if you're a bone-nibbler (like we are).

        2. That sounds really good, jacqueline. Have you tried halving the recipe? My husband isn't always thrilled with multiple-night leftovers. Nice blog, by the way.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bear

            thanks for the feedback bear! my husband is often the same way! i halve the recipe most of the time...

          2. You had me at 2 sticks of butter!!!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Rippin200

              Beurre, beurre et plus beurre!

            2. That sounds fanatstic. I might use this sauce on my pulled pork tonight. Am I ever-lovin' tired of the boyfriend's Sweet Baby Ray's addiction. This sounds like a nice change of pace.

              1 Reply
              1. re: onceadaylily

                Saved to my chow! Thanks for posting Jacqueline f. It sounds wonderful.

              2. Do you think you could do this all in a crock pot? I don't turn my oven on in the summer since I live in Phoenix.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Kari

                  Sure, you could do these ribs in a crockpot. I did ribs in the crockpot in Mesa and it worked out well. Of course it was Januray and it was about 50 degrees. It never did warm up while I was there, is that normal?

                  1. re: Kari

                    Hi Kari-

                    I am in Phx as well.. Curios how you would prepare in slow cooker. I'm thinking 8 hrs on low and cooking onions prior? Please share.

                    Thx

                    1. re: drewb123

                      I was thinking you meant cooking the ribs in the crockpot. Certainly you could do that. Then finish them on a gas grill with indirect heat to get the sauce just right. I think you need dry heat for that part.

                    2. re: Kari

                      I hate to admit it, but I've never used a crock pot. Not sure if it would work. I'm guessing it would be softer and more like a braise and not as sticky and gooey. Please let me know how it works! Good luck!