It is a famous Shanghai dish that is intended as an appetizer and served cold. The original recipe requires a large amount of oil for deep-frying and a powerful professional gas stove to get the crispy surface of the ribs. This recipe is altered to achieve the beautiful golden color of the meat and amazing sweet and sour taste by introducing a traditional Chinese meat-browning technique 炒糖色 (chao tang shai), or frying the ribs in melted sugar to add color.
For boiling spareribs
- 500g spareribs, cut to the bite size 猪肋排，切成小块
- 2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine
- 1 thumb-size ginger, sliced姜片
- 3 – 4 green onion, white part (save the green part for garnish) 葱白段
For the stir-fry
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 3 tablespoons caster sugar白砂糖
- 4 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar镇江香醋
- 3 tablespoons light soy sauce生抽
- 1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce (optional) 老抽
- 5 tablespoons water
- Cut the pork ribs into small bite size and transfer to a large pot. Add water to cover the ribs. Bring it to a boil and cook for a few minutes. Remove the pot from stove. Rinse the ribs with running water. Return the ribs to the water. Add water to cover ribs. Also add two tablespoons of cooking wine, sliced ginger and green onion. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn to small-medium heat. Cook for about 40 minutes till the ribs become soft. Remove the pot from stove. Transfer the ribs to a colander to drain. Scoop out ginger and green onion.
- Mix chinkiang vinegar, light soy sauce and water in a small bowl, set aside.
- Now, let’s stir fry. Add the cooking oil and sugar to a wok and cook over medium heat. Stir constantly with a spatula to dissolve the sugar slowly. When the sugar is fully dissolved, use spatula to scoop some liquid mixture to observe its color. The process takes about 5-8 minutes. When the sugar turns pale brown, immediately and carefully add the ribs to the wok. Stir constantly to coat them well with melted sugar. Stir until the ribs turn golden brown, turn off heat.
- Now pour into the mixture of vinegar, light soy sauce and water. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Turn to medium heat and cook for about 20 minutes. When the sauce has significant reduced, turn up the heat to thicken the sauce. Stir well to make sure ribs are evenly coated with the sauce. This process takes about a few minutes.
- Transfer the ribs to a plate. Garnish the ribs with chopped green onion. Serve warm or cold.
- The traditional Chinese meat-browning technique 炒糖色(chao tang shai), or browning meat in the melted sugar is a common technique in Chinese braised dishes. The result is similar to browning the meat – to add color to the meat and to create a crispy surface. With the chao tang shai method, it quickly adds color to the meat without using dark soy sauce and infuses a sweet flavor to the dish. You start with adding sugar to cold oil. Cook slowly until the sugar melts and turns golden. It’s important to get a hot oil temperature without burning the sugar. You will find that the pork gets a nice beautiful reddish brown color in a minute or so, along with the caramelization of the sugar.