I love good sticky Chinese ribs but the problem is that there is never enough actual meat on them. I know that cooking meat on the bone adds flavour but you can get flavour into the meat in other ways. This recipe for Chinese sticky ribs is actually for sticky belly pork but the sauce and cooking method would work on either.
Belly pork is a nice, cheap cut that benefits from long, slow cooking and once you’ ve got them going they can pretty much be left to their own devices. It’s much cheaper than ordering from a take-away and you don’t have the side order of msg to contend with.
12 slices of lean belly pork (trim if necessary)
2 tbsps flour seasoned with 1 tsp 5 spice, 1/2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns and 1/2 tsp ground star anise
3 tbsps wet tamarind
1/4 cup sweet soy sauce
1/4 cup runny honey
1/4 cup of black chinese vinegar
I bulb garlic with the very tips of the cloves sliced off (see photo)
2 inch chunk of ginger cut into four pieces
Oil for frying
Dip each slice of belly pork in the seasoned flour, brown them on both sides in the oil over a medium heat to seal and set aside.
To make the sauce: place the wet tamarind in a measuring jug and pour enough boiling water over to make it up to one pint. Add the sweet soy sauce, black chinese vinegar and runny honey. Wait for it to cool a litttle and then get your (scrupulously clean!) hands in there and squeeze all the fruit off the tamarind stones. Strain the sauce, pour it over the ‘ribs’ and add the chunks of ginger and whole garlic bulb. The reason the ginger and garlic are cut like they are is because the long, slow cooking will impart their flavour to the belly pork and you can simply fish them out when they’ve done their job.
Slow cook the ‘ribs’ either on a low heat in an oven dish (covered with foil) for three hours or pop them into a slow cooker and cook them on the high setting, again for three hours.
Serve them as part of a chinese meal or as a starter. They make great treats for kids, too.