Chinese Five Spice Riblets Recipe

These wonderfully flavorful ribs are a fine main dish and they also make a great appetizer for a party when cut into half size riblets. They are flavored with an aromatic Chinese spice mix, five spice powder. They are marinated and grill roasted but they can also be deep fried. To make bite-size finger foods as a perfect party dish, the ribs need to be cut in half lengthwise at the butcher.

Recipe For Chinese Five Spice Riblets

Makes. 12 full size ribs or 24 to 28 half size riblets

Takes. 15 minutes to make the marinade and 2 to 4 hours hours to marinate. Grill roasting takes 60 minutes at 225F.


1 slab St. Louis cut spareribs (about 3 pounds). If you plan to fry the riblets, be sure to buy St. Louis cut spareribs because they are flat and baby backs are too curved to fry properly. Remember, St. Louis cut ribs have the rib tips removed. If you're not clear on the differences, see this article on the different pork cuts. Have your butcher cut the slab in half lengthwise with a bandsaw so that you have two mini slabs with bones that are only about 2 to 3" long. If you can't get this done by the butcher, just cut the slab into individual bones as shown above.


3 cups rice wine

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar (or 1/4 cup distilled vinegar)

3 tablespoons Chinese five spice powder (click the link for a recipe)

3 tablespoons dark soy sauce

4 teaspoons hot pepper sauce for mild heat, use more if you like it hot

The sauce

2 tablespoons Chinese five spice powder

2 tablespoons ground black pepper

4 tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup rice wine

The garnish

1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted lightly in a dry 12" frying pan

3 scallions, chopped into rings

About the rice wine. If you can't find it you can use sake or any good dry white wine

Do this

1) Skin and trim the ribs.

2) Place the ribs in zipper bags, the bigger the better. Mix the marinade ingredients thoroughly and pour it over the ribs, dividing it among the bags. Submerge them in the marinade in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.

3) Remove the ribs from the marinade and drain them in a strainer or colander, but do not rinse or dry them.

4) Fire up a grill in 2 zones so the indirect side is 225F. When it is up to temp, put the ribs in the indirect zone.

5) Whle the ribs are cooking, make the sauce in a pan and heat it over low flame until it burbles. This will take only a few minutes. TUrn it off and then bring it back up just b efore removing the ribs.

6) Move the riblets to a serving platter, pour just enough sauce to lightly cover them, and sprinkle sesame seeds and chopped green onions on top.

chinese ribs

fortune cookie

The demise of the fortune cookie

While I was fine tuning this recipe and seeking inspiration, I've been working my way through Chicago's Chinatown, hitting the Asian groceries (deep fried guppies anyone?), and getting to know the local restaurant delivery boys.

Although the rib recipes varied quite a bit, one thing has been constant. Has anyone noticed that fortune cookies no longer tell a fortune? They no longer tell us what the future has in store for us. They no longer say "You will...", they say "You are...".

Sadly, fortune cookies now tell us meaningless aphorisms probably written by out of work speechwriters whose candidates have lost. Many "fortunes" even have smiley faces on them. A friend calls them "Proverb Cookies." And when did fortune cookie manufacturers start putting lottery numbers on them? Like the lottery is going to make me a fortune?

The only real fortune I have dug out of a cookie lately said, and I swear I am not making this up, "Within the coming 5 months you will find 3 missing socks." Alas, it's been at least a year. Never happened.

Here are some recent actual "fortunes" I've gotten.

  • "He who hurries cannot walk with dignity." Tell that to my wife.
  • "A happy family is important to you." I've seen better T-shirts. Like "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
  • "Preparation is important." Clearly stolen from the Boy Scouts.
  • "Fashion is temporary. Invest in Passion." Passion Communications is a privately held Canadian Corporations. Thanks a lot.
  • "Strength and sensitivity are not opposites." Maybe that's why I cry at sad movies."You find beauty in ordinary things. Keep this trait." Actually, this one came in handy. It saved my rock collection from my wife's garage sale.

I want to see fortune cookies that say things like this:

  • "Take the train tomorrow unless you want to ruin the new paint job on your car."
  • "Your tech stocks are going to tank."
  • "No need to water your garden next week. Get to know your neighbor, Noah."
  • "Make Chinese Five Spice Riblets tonight. and you might get lucky."

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