CARAMEL SOY SAUCE STICKY RIBS
“Well I guess… I just have to KILL TWO BIRDS WITH ONE RIB”
It’s Chinese new year’s eve today and I. Have. Got. Nothing. To eat.
This is no doubt starting to become an alarming pattern over the last couple years… especially when this year, another major national event from the West is clashing head to head with CNY, clouding my already impaired judgement when it comes to curating content. It’s CNY (looking right)… it’s Superbowl (looking left)… Oh but it’s CNY (looking right)… Woah but wait it’s Superbowl (looking left)!… Oh shit I’m so confused!
Well I guess to be extremely
lazy thoughtful and considerate, I just have to kill two birds with one rib.
Sure you’ll understand my incentive to keep it short today… It’s new year’s eve and I mean I’ve got a room full of (glancing over my very empty apartment with the maddening repetition of “BIEBER” keep playing in the background CNN-noise, God I don’t caaaare!!!!)… laundries to do, and possibly, dinner to pick up from the only and very responsible restaurant that’s still open today. Love my life.
Besides, do I really have to sell you ribs?
I mean who doesn’t like ribs? (Slowly raising my own hands…) OK fine, as honesty and truth goes, they can be totally overrated sometimes. What should’ve been at all times, gelatinous and succulent, can often times come disappointingly dry and under-flavoured, deceivingly passable for televised food-porn only. And I’m going to boldly dictate that the reason to be, is because ribs aren’t really made for (bracing myself for the raining stones to come…) exposed dry heat – aka BBQ. Or at least not for those of us who aren’t pit-masters, wielding an optimal cooking-environment with constant temperature and humidity. Are you a pit-master?
So I believe the best way to cook ribs at home, is to subject them to a generous amount of braising liquid in an air-tight environment. A “steam box” if you will, in your own oven. And only until they are “steamed” to perfectly fork-tenderness, only then, you unwrap and glaze them with the reduction of their very own braising sauce.
Well, of course not just any sauce.
You shall do it with this ferociously glossy and sticky concoction, with a popping colour powered by a dominant amount of homemade caramel, soy sauce and apple juice with just a hint of five-spice powder. It strikes a strangely addictive balance between borderline-overly sweet and borderline-under salty, and then there’s that slight tang from mustard and… tingling things from cayenne. Does that make sense? It lands on a very delicate sweet spot. “Oh wow mmmmmm…..” is what came out of Jason who, for the record, isn’t a ribs-person either. So you know.
Well, now I’ve got some TV-dinner to pick up… you go ahead and enjoy life without me.
And plus, hey Beib, just grow the fuck up.
Serving: OK, so I forgot to weight the ribs before cooking… But I would estimate that it falls safely in between 35 oz ~ 42 oz (1 kg ~ 1.2 kg), and should feed more than 6 people.
UPDATE: 2014/02/02. Thanks to a reader who noticed I had the oven temperature written as 300ºF/150ºF (both fahrenheit), and it should be 300ºF/150ºC. Sorry.
- 35 oz ~ 42 oz (1 kg ~ 1.2 kg) of babyback ribs or spareribs
- Caramel soy sauce:
- 8 (70 grams) large scallions, cut into segments
- 1 tbsp of oil for frying
- 1/3 cup (66 grams) of granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (110 grams) of soy sauce
- 1/2 cup (110 grams) of apple juice
- 1/8 cup (40 grams) of shao-xing wine, or other Chinese yellow cooking wine
- 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 2 tbsp (36 grams) of Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp of ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp of five-spice powder
- 1/4 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- To finish:
- 1 tbsp of dark brown sugar + 1/2 tbsp for adjusting
- 1/2 tsp of rice vinegar (important)
- Ground white pepper for sprinkling
- A few sprigs of scallion, finely diced
This can be made the day before:
Preheat the oven on 300ºF/150ºC. Clean and dab the ribs dry with a clean towel, and set them meat-side down over a deep baking sheet that allows the ribs to lay in one single layer as perfectly as possible.
Combine soy sauce, apple juice and shao-xing wine inside a cup (this is just for easy pouring), set aside. In a sauce pot, heat up 1 tbsp of oil over high heat, then cook the scallions until deeply browned and almost charred. Remove the scallions and set aside. Add the granulated sugar into the same pot and melt over medium heat. Once the edges against the pot begins to melt, stir slowly to incorporate the rest, until all the sugar has melted and turned into dark/amber-color caramel (the pot will start to smoke up which is a good indicator to the sugar caramelizing). The second the sugar reaches the desired color, immediately remove the pot away from the heat and add the soy sauce/apple juice/wine mixture. The liquid will bubble up then quickly subside. Return the pot back to the heat (the caramel may have solidified but don’t worry, it will melt back into the liquid), and add the browned scallions, smashed garlic, Dijon mustard, ground cayenne, smoked paprika, five-spice powder and ground black pepper.
Simmer the sauce for 7~10 min on low heat, and turn off the heat and let the sauce cool for 20 min.
Pour the sauce over the ribs and use your hands to evenly coat every surface of the ribs with sauce. Cover the baking-sheet tightly with foil then bake in the oven for 3 ~ 3:30 hour. Re-baste the ribs with sauce about twice during baking. When the ribs are done, you should be able to insert a fork effortlessly into the meat. If you’re serving the ribs the next day, keep them covered tightly with foils and keep in the fridge.
One hour before serving:
(If you have kept the ribs in the fridge, warm them in a 300ºF/150ºF oven just until the sauce has come back to a liquid). Carefully remove the ribs with a wide spatula (seriously… the ribs are pretty “fragile” at this point, especially when they’re hot), and lay them meat-side up this time in another baking-sheet. Remove any scallions and garlics attached to the ribs, then cover with plastic-wrap while you prepare the sauce.
Preheat the top-broiler on medium.
Pour the sauce out of the deep baking-sheet, through a fine strainer, into a sauce pot (you should have something a bit shy from 2 cups). Skim off as much fat as you can from the surface and bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-low heat. At the point, adjust the sweetness with 1 tbsp of dark brown sugar or more (I added about 1 1/2 tbsp), and let the sauce reduce down by about 2/3 (leaving you with a bit more than 1/2 cup). The sauce should have thickened quite a bit. Now turn off the heat and mix in 1/2 tsp of rice vinegar (do not underestimate the vinegar which is going to bring the sauce alive).
Brush the sauce over the ribs, and place the baking sheet on the middle-upper rack under the broiler. Once the surface of the ribs starts to sizzle and bubble up, baste another layer of sauce over and bake until bubbly and sticky again.
Sprinkle the ribs with a bit of finely diced scallions and ground white pepper (do not… underestimate the white pepper which is gonna… you know… alive).