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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Asian-Inspired Sweet and Tangy Red Chili Pork Ribs

When I made this dish, it was one of those days when I was busy and had little time to cook.  I went to the international supermarket and saw this nice pork back rib meat.  I thought it'd be fun to play with some Korean spices and make a nice spicy, tangy sauce with a touch of sweetness and a nice fresh ginger flavor to balance everything out.  Since the ribs came cut into small pieces and the ingredients were pretty simple, I was able to make this dish quickly and easily.

The flavor of this dish balances the bitter heat of Korean chili powder, the sweet tangy-ness of rice vinegar, and the sweetness of sugar and honey.  Fresh ginger adds a nice pop of freshness and a soft crunch.  Surprisingly, the ginger rounds are actually very tasty, and they become almost candied in the cooking process, fully absorbing all of the flavors of the sauce.  The sauce is lightly thickened, as opposed to being the thick, sticky consistency of Chinese American food.  The meat on its own has a great flavor and a slight bit of chewiness (not the type that comes from being overcooked) with a very thin velvety, buttery-tasting line of fat along the edges of the bone.  Although the meat is a bit more difficult to get to with the way that the bone is positioned, the flavor makes up for it.  Other pork ribs, such as spare ribs or spare rib tips would work equally well.  In fact, I would likely prefer spare rib tips if I made this dish again.  Spare rib tips are actually one of my favorite types of pork for adding great flavor to rice dishes.

Enjoy this easy, flavorful dish with white rice.

1-1.5 lbs pork riblets, spare rib tips, or other smaller rib pieces
1/2 c corn syrup
1.5 c water
3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
2 TB of fresh ginger (peeled and sliced into somewhat thin rounds beforehand)
1 tsp Korean chili powder**
2 tsp Korean red chili paste**
1 whole dried Korean red chili pepper**
1 tsp rice vinegar (much more affordable at any Asian market)
1 tsp of honey
1-1/2 TB of sugar
salt and pepper to taste
*cornstarch (2 heaping teaspooons should do the trick--the type you eat with)

*This will be used once the marinated meat is at frying stage

**These ingredients can be found at any Korean market or larger Pan-Asian supermarkets (e.g. Global Foods in Northern VA or Korea Garden on Midlothian in Richmond, VA (

5 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1/2 tsp - 1 tsp chili paste

1. Wash meat and rub marinade into meat for a few minutes.  Marinate for at least  one hour.

2. Make a sauce with the remaining ingredients.

3. Cook the sauce over medium high heat for about 5 minutes

4. Lower heat and simmer over medium low heat until thickened, about 25 minutes

5. Place meat in a pan with 1-1/2 TB oil over medium heat

6. Dust meat with just enough cornstarch so that both sides of each piece of meat receives an light dusting.  This seals in the meat's juices and will also aid in thickening the sauce later in the cooking process

7. Brown the meat over medium to medium high heat until 3/4 cooked

8. Once meat is cooked, add the cooked sauce to cover the meat and toss evenly

9. Cover the meat and bring the dish to a boil for just about a minute.

10. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes


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