|I didn't have a wok...|
So that was my very long explanation as to why I'm moving this recipe from my Tumblr blog (that no-one seems to read) to, well, here. I wrote this back in September 2011, you'll know why/what it was for as you read on. It's my mom's recipe - one of the dishes she almost always makes for guests, and which returning guests always ask for. Throughout the Internet, you'll find lots of similar recipes for this dish, which we call "12345 spare ribs" but is also more commonly known as "sugar vinegar spare ribs" / tong cho pai gwut / 糖醋排骨, but for some reason you'll see most of those with a very watery, light sauce. Ours is thick and sticky, like a super-dark toffee, and goes great with rice.
Here goes, the making of 12345 ribs, which I brought to a Rita’s baby’s birthday party. (Of course the ribs were not for the baby… the party was as much for us as it was for him… oops!). I don’t have a pic of the final product coz I spilled my sauce on the way there and descended into a pile of nerves. If you look carefully you’ll see the final result in Rita’s blog post. I stole a couple more photos from her:
|Party food - Photo by Rita|
T = tablespoon, but as long as the proportion is right you'll be fine
C: = in Chinese
1 T Shaoxing wine (aka yellow wine or Huadiao) C: 紹興酒
2 T Chinkiang (aka Zhenjiang or dark Chinese) vinegar C: 鎮江醋
3 T soy sauce - (a combo of dark and light - less dark - maybe 1 T dark, 2 T light)
4 T rock sugar, slightly crushed C: 冰糖
5 T water
1 catty* C: 斤 pork ribs C: 一字排, cut into big cubes (bear in mind they shrink during cooking). Buy ribs that are quite fatty, but with evenly dispersed fat, rather than in thick layers.
*about half a kg - nb. in Mainland China, a catty is a bit lighter
In deepish pan (or a wok, of course), lightly brown pork ribs on medium-high heat. (Use your preferred method of greasing/oiling the pan. I tossed my ribs in oil to coat them).
Drizzle (or splash, evenly) wine over ribs and turn briefly to mix everything around for 20 secs.
Combine remaining liquids in a bowl and pour into pan, over the ribs.
Once the liquid starts to bubble, (almost immediately) turn the heat right down to low, put a lid on the pan and let it simmer.
When about half the liquid is gone, add rock sugar. Turn the contents in the pan every so often to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan.
After about 5 mins, keep an an eagle eye on it, turning and breaking the sugar up as it cooks. Remember to keep the heat on low. (Impatience will destroy your dish - the sauce will split*). Turn every minute or so to keep coating the ribs with sauce.
At this point, you may want to taste the sauce (tongue burn alert). If it’s out of balance in any way, add vinegar, (light) soy or sugar as appropriate. Keep turning (towards the end you’ll almost be turning it non-stop, but be gentle or you’ll break bits of pork off the bones!) until the sauce is reduced to a sticky liquid, most of which would have coated the ribs, like a thick layer of molasses.
*If you find that the sauce is splitting (dark soy/vinegar combo separating from the oil) you can save it quickly by adding a couple tablespoons of water and mixing/whisking the sauce around in the pan rigorously.
|Cutlery in an awesomely geeky lens cup, and my ribs in the background. Photo by Rita|