In my opinion, sweet and sour pork ribs are a quintessential dish in authentic Vietnamese cuisine. However, cooking them to perfection is not an easy task. There are two common flaws that can occur. Firstly, the ribs can become tough and chewy, requiring the meat to be ripped off the bone while eating. This usually happens when the ribs are not boiled or steamed before being pan-fried. The short cooking time is not sufficient to soften them. Secondly, the opposite can occur, where the ribs are boiled for too long, resulting in a loose and dry texture, and a loss of firmness and juiciness.
The good news is that the cooking method I am about to introduce solves both of these problems. With this method, the ribs are guaranteed to be tender, juicy, and flavorful, making for a thoroughly enjoyable meal. Serve them with steamed rice, sour cabbage pickles, or sour vegetable broth, and you will have one of the most delicious food experiences imaginable.
Number of Servings: 2-3
450 grams pork ribs
1/2 teaspoon cooking salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic)
1/8 teaspoon onion powder (or 1/2 teaspoon minced shallot)
1/2 tablespoon (7ml) apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE:
15 grams shallot (2-3 cloves)
7 grams garlic (2-3 cloves)
1 tablespoon (14 grams) sugar
2/3 tablespoon (10ml) vinegar
1/2 tablespoon (7ml) oyster sauce
120ml (1/2 cup) hot water
60ml (1/4 cup) cooking oil
- Although you can use fish sauce or a mix of pork/chicken stock broth instead of oyster sauce/soy sauce, I personally find that oyster sauce and soy sauce provide the most suitable flavor. In fact, oyster sauce is a must-have ingredient for me.
- The measurements provided above are only an approximation. The exact amounts of marinades and spices you use may vary slightly depending on your personal preference and the brands you choose to use.
- Begin by removing the thin membrane from the back of the ribs, as it has a chewy texture that we want to avoid. Then, chop the ribs into small pieces.
- Place the ribs in a pot with ½ tsp of salt and enough water to submerge them. Bring to a boil, discard the water, and rinse the ribs before transferring them to a bowl. This step ensures that the ribs are clean and eliminates any unpleasant odor.
- In the same bowl, marinate the ribs with all the ingredients listed under “Marinade”. Let the ribs sit for 20-30 minutes to allow the marinade to penetrate them. If you’re short on time, you can proceed to the next step right away.
- Finely chop or mince the shallots and garlic that are listed under “Sweet and sour sauce”.
- Heat 60 ml of cooking oil in a deep pan over medium heat. Add the chopped shallots and garlic, and stir until they begin to brown. Remove them from the oil and set them aside; they will continue to brown and become crispy.
- Increase the heat to high and add the marinated ribs to the pan. Fry them quickly, just until the outside is lightly charred. Avoid overcooking, as it can make the meat dry. If you marinated the ribs with chopped shallots and garlic, wipe them off before frying to prevent them from burning and sticking to the ribs.
- Once the ribs are charred, remove the pan from the heat and drain off the excess oil, leaving only 1/2 – 1 tbsp.
- Use the residual marinade from the bowl to prepare the sweet and sour sauce. Mix the marinade with 1 tbsp of sugar, 2/3 tbsp of vinegar, 1/2 tbsp of soy sauce, and 120 ml of hot water. Adjust the seasoning to taste, as the amount of marinade may vary.
- Return the pan with the ribs to the heat and add the sauce. Bring it to a medium heat until 2/3 of the sauce remains. Cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes. This step will soften the meat while preserving its juiciness.
- Remove the lid and increase the heat to high to let the sauce thicken to your preference. Flip the ribs occasionally for even cooking and seasoning.
- When the sauce has thickened, turn off the heat and add the fried shallots and garlic from step 5. Stir well to combine and enhance the dish’s aroma.
Serve hot and enjoy!