Sunday, 9 August 2009

Vietnamese Ribs

This is a really delicious marinade posted here (post has three recipes in so scroll down to the second one) on the 'Seriously Asian' section of Serious Eats. A warning: this isn't an instant gratification recipe. You have to make the caramel, and have the ribs marinate overnight. I would say it's worth the wait, but you'll have to judge yourself. Don't be scared off though, the different parts require time but no huge amount of skill, so anyone can give it a go.

2 pounds pork spareribs, cut crosswise through the bone into two long strips

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons caramel sauce (recipe here)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon canola oil, or another neutral oil
1 thick stalk of lemongrass, trimmed and minced (about 6 tablespoons)


I halved the recipe and used a small pack of ribs, rather than a big rack (which would be very difficult to get hold of without special ordering here)

I had no lemongrass. I think I might be able to get it frozen from the Brazilian store, but for a half hour walk each way in the heat to possibly find out they didn't have it, I wasn't about to check. I used the zest of a lemon instead (use two lemons if you're making the full amount instead of halving like I did)

Instead of a shallot I grated a bit of onion

I couldn't find a Thai/Vietnamese fish sauce but I found a Japanese version (魚醤油 uoshouyu) that did the job


1) Make caramel sauce, allow to cool completely.

2) Combine the garlic, shallot, brown sugar, and pepper. Add the caramel sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, oil, and lemongrass (/lemon zest), and mix well.

3) In a large bowl, add ribs and coat well in the mixture. Allow to marinate in the fridge overnight.

4) Remove the bowl from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. Prepare a medium charcoal fire on your grill, or preheat a gas grill to medium. Alternatively, position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 475°F/250C. Arrange the ribs on a baking sheet lined with foil.

5) Arrange the ribs on the grill rack, or slip the baking sheet into the oven. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until browned and a little charred on the edges. Monitor the progress, making sure the ribs cook evenly. My ribs were a bit chunkier, so I cooked them a little longer, and then finished them on the grill to get a nice charred look, but that's up to you.

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