Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Szechuan Sweet and Sour Pork Spare Ribs (Tangsu Paigu)

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe from my favorite Szechwan cookbook (Mrs. Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook: Szechwan Home Cooking). The cookbook was the very first Chinese cookbook I bought. It includes many of the dishes I grew up with and its purchase was my first attempt as an adult to recreate some of them. The cookbook has been long out of print but you can find a few of the recipes here. The Dry-Fried Green Beans is a wonderful dish and is very similar to the one that Little Village Noodle House serves (a favorite restaurant of ours in Honolulu's China Town).

I love most Chinese spare ribs dishes but I particularly like this one because of the different texture that the deep frying gives the ribs (slightly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside) and the hint of sweet and sour. Not like those gloppy, red gooey ribs you get at some Chinese take-out joints. (Try a more traditional Chinese restaurant style sweet and sour spare ribs recipe without the red goop here.) I think the simplicity of the ingredients is what makes it so good. The recipe feeds about 2-3 people, maybe 4 if adding other dishes. It can easily be doubled. Some of the adjustments I made from the original recipe is slightly less salt and slightly more sugar. I found I couldn't taste the sweetness in the original recipe and it was just a tad too salty for me. I like a good balance between sweet, sour and salty in the ribs. I also like to marinade it for about an hour or so, instead of the 30 minutes that the original recipe calls for. The other major adjustment is that I minced the ginger instead of slicing it. If you prefer a milder taste of ginger, you can sliced a 1" piece of ginger into 1/4" matchsticks instead.

1 1/2 lb pork spare ribs (~ 1 slab)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar (I used Mirin)
1 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 scallions (green onions)
Peanut oil for deep frying

Cut the ribs into individual ribs. Slash each rib meat approximately every 1/4" and remove excess fat. The slashes will help thicker ribs soak up the marinade. Put the ribs in a bowl and sprinkle ribs with salt, sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and ginger.

Smash the scallions (green and white part) with a cleaver or another tool such as a meat tenderizer. Don't pulverize the scallions, just enough to bruise the scallions. The purpose is to release the flavors of the scallion. Cut smashed scallions into 2" lengths. Add to ribs, mix well and marinade for 30-60 minutes.

In a wok or other large heavy duty pan (e.g., Dutch oven), heat peanut oil to 375 degrees F. If you don't have a thermometer, heat the oil until almost the smoking point. In my wok, I need about 3 cups of oil for a double batch. Fry the ribs in small batches, don't overcrowd or put in too many or else the temperature of the oil will drop too low. I usually fry 3-4 ribs at a time, depending on the size of the ribs. Fry the ribs for 5 minutes until dark brown, then drain for 1 minute. Serve hot.

We've eaten these cold as leftovers the next day. Yummmmm.

On a side note, the Mister loves to quote movies and didn't miss a beat by quoting a Bruce Lee movie when I said I was going to make some Chinese spare ribs. Perhaps you've seen the movie. Enjoy, now go and eat well.


KirkK said...

Look really good...I think I'll start gnawing on my leg now.

Barefoot Plumies said...

lol! These ribs are oddly addicting. Serve with some rice and veggie dish, perfect meal!