My Chinese take-out.

What do you do when you don’t have a grill but the best meat at your favorite local meat producer is the spareribs? Do you cry, lamenting your bad decision to live in an apartment where you don’t have a backyard and grill-space? Do you opt for the much-more-expensive and getting-down-right-old (but otherwise delicious) pork tenderloin that you get all the time? Do you run out of the little farm-store, spear-in-hand, straight for the cows chewing peacefully in their pastures, intent on making a kill just so you can get that sought-after and never available rib-eye steak that would be so perfectly done in the oven? No, no. Don’t be silly. It would take them at least two-weeks to dry age that steak—just take the spareribs.

I did take the spareribs and I have to admit I was pretty bummed over not having a grill until I found this recipe for Chinese Spareribs in the River Cottage Meat Book (thanks Anita for leading me to this wonderful book!) Truthfully, even after I found the recipe, I tossed and turned over making it instead of barbecued ribs. I thought about whose house with a grill I could invite myself to, I thought about making them in the oven. I was upset.

And then, as things usually go, Jim told me I was being crazy and took me out to buy the ingredients for Chinese Spareribs—he’s such a good decision-maker. And a lucky one, too, because these ribs turned out to be the most succulent, fragrant, falling-off the bone, reminiscent of but waaay better than Chinese take-out ribs. All of the ingredients, which seemed too strong when I first put them in the pot, fused together to create the flavor that everyone tries to get when making Chinese food at home. The recipe’s a keeper. The kind of recipe that you use at dinner parties for bosses when you want to get a raise or for a first date when you want to be fallen in love with or at home with your boyfriend when you want to say thank you for putting up with your crappy moods for the past six months: The best kind of recipe.

Chinese-Style Spareribs

adapted from The River Cottage Meat Book

  • 3 pounds spareribs, preferably organic grass-fed
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 3 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 8 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 10 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 10 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
  • 1 cup pineapple juice, preferably fresh

Cut spareribs into peices about 2-4 ribs wide. Heat oil in a large pot. Fry spareribs until browned on all sides. Add ginger and garlic and fry until they release their aromas. Add in soy sauces, sugar, vinegar, pineapple juice , and enough water to barely cover ribs. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and not letting the liquid get too low.

Remove spareribs from pot. Let the liquid simmer away until it makes a rich, syrupy broth. Put the spareribs back in the pot to re-warm them. Serve with slices of radish or spring onion.