Asian-Pacific American Month Recipe: Chinese-Style Barbecued Spareribs

It's day two of Asian-Pacific American Month, and yesterday's Huli Huli Chicken just made us ever hungrier for the cuisine of the region. So we're feasting upon these Chinese-Style Barbecued Spareribs from KCET show America's Test Kitchen, where they've stumbled upon the perfect technique for smoking the meat: rather than using wood, they soak 8 black tea bags (orange spice or Earl Grey, preferably) in water for 5 minutes, then tightly seal them in a foil packet. Cut vent holes in the top of the packet so the smoke can escape, and set the packet on the coals.
Beautiful. Also, if you can't find St. Louis-cut spareribs (which have been trimmed of the brisket bone and surrounding meat), substitute baby back ribs and begin to check for doneness after 1 hour on the grill. Cover the edges of the ribs loosely with foil if they begin to burn while grilling. And enjoy this classic Pacific Rim dish!

Chinese-Style Barbecued Spareribs
Serves 6
2 racks pork spareribs (2 1/2 to 3 pounds each), preferably St. Louis-cut
8 black tea bags (see below)
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup hoisin sauce
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dry sherry
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 cup red currant jelly

Remove membrane on underside of ribs. (At one end of the rack, loosen the membrane with the tip of a paring knife. Grab the membrane with a paper towel and pull slowly -- it should come off in one piece.) Cut rib racks in half. Cover tea bags with water in small bowl and soak for 5 minutes. Squeeze water from tea bags and tightly seal in foil packet. Cut vent holes in top of packet.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Whisk 1 cup ketchup, soy sauce, hoisin, sugar, sherry, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and cayenne in large bowl; reserve ½ cup for glaze. Arrange ribs, meaty side down, in large disposable roasting pan and pour remaining ketchup mixture over ribs. Cover pan tightly with foil and cook until fat has rendered and meat begins to pull away from bones, 2 to 2½ hours. Transfer ribs to large plate. Pour pan juices into fat separator. Let liquid settle and reserve 1 cup defatted pan juices.

Simmer reserved pan juices over medium-high heat until reduced to ½ cup, about 5 minutes. Stir in jelly, reserved ketchup mixture, and remaining ketchup and simmer until reduced to 2 cups, 10 to 12 minutes. Reserve one-third of glaze for serving.

Open bottom vent on grill. Light about 100 coals; when covered with fine gray ash, carefully pile on 1 side of grill. Arrange foil packet directly on coals. Set cooking grate in place and heat, covered, with lid vent open halfway, until tea begins to smoke heavily, about 5 minutes. (For gas grill, place foil packet directly on primary burner. Heat all burners on high, covered, until tea begins to smoke heavily, about 5 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and shut other burner[s] off.) Scrape and oil cooking grate. Arrange ribs, meaty side down, on cool side of grill and cook, covered, until ribs are smoky and edges begin to char, about 30 minutes.

Brush ribs with glaze, flip, rotate, and brush again. Cover and barbecue, brushing with glaze every 30 minutes, until ribs are fully tender and glaze is browned and sticky, 1 to 1½ hours. Transfer to cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest 10 minutes. Serve with reserved glaze.

(Ribs and glaze can be prepared through step 3 up to 2 days in advance. Once the ribs are cool, wrap tightly in foil and refrigerate. Transfer glaze to microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate. Allow ribs to stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Heat glaze in microwave on high power until warm, about 1 minute.)

[Homepage photo by Flickr user wallyg]



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About the Author

Katherine's role as the Living editor at KCET.org keeps her running from farms to markets to restaurants to pop-up swaps all over SoCal. She's been living in and writing about this area for over a decade.
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