Chinese spare ribs

So King Daddy and I were at the World Famous Peking Palace in Cool Springs eating Chinese spare ribs as that is what one does on a Sunday afternoon in Middle Tennessee.

If you live in the South and you’re a BBQ lover, as I am, Chinese spare ribs are just the absolute opposite of what we’ve come to know as a truly good smoked rib. There is no smoke involved. They are as red as a tomato and they’re not tender. They’ve got some chew on them. But they’re delicious. Kind of like a Krystal isn’t a real hamburger but it’s a perfect rendition of what a square steamed patty of beef should be, Chinese spare ribs are the perfect example of sweet and salty pork on a stick.

“I wonder if we could make these at home,” King Daddy mused. As it turns out, we can and we did and they were super easy and remarkably like the restaurant version.

One of the dangers in trying a recipe you’ve never done is to have a recipe you know has been impeccably tested. So I turned to J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, who runs the Food Lab for Serious Eats. He’s the kind of guy who tests recipes hundreds of times to get them right so you don’t have to.

His version uses only five ingredients plus the ribs: Chinese five-spice powder, hoisin sauce, dry sherry, soy sauce and honey. The only trick is to plan ahead because these ribs are best marinated at least overnight and for up to three days. But once that’s done, you just stick them on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet, cover them with foil and bake them at 375 degrees for an hour, then uncovered for another half hour while you continue to use the marinade to baste them until they turn that beautiful lacquered deep red. Here’s the recipe.

These ribs weren’t part of supper. They were supper in its entirety, as King Daddy and I devoured them like cavemen standing at the kitchen counter. The recipe’s a keeper. Not traditional ribs but a thing of beauty in their own right.


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