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Chinese BBQ Pork (Char Siu) Ribs Recipe


Chinese roast pork (char siu) ribs on a plate topped with sesame seeds
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4.25 from 128 votes
Everybody loves Chinese restaurant "BBQ" ribs. They have a distinct pork flavor, a glossy sheen that implies the sweet glaze beneath, and a glowing red-pink color that penetrates the surface. Here's a simple recipe for making Chinatown char siu ribs at home on your grill or in the oven featuring a flavorful marinade. You can use any cut of ribs.

Serve with: your favorite Asian beer brand.


Course:
Dinner
,
Lunch
,
Main Course
Cuisine:
Asian
,
Chinese

Makes:

Servings: 2 servings, 1/2 rack each

Takes:

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours

Ingredients

The Meat

  • 1 slab ribs (any cut)

The Marinade

Notes:
About the ribs. Many Chinese restaurants use spareribs that are chopped into 3-4" riblets with a cleaver. If you want, your butcher can make you riblets with her band saw. If not, you can do them whole. I like baby backs for this recipe because they are meatier on top of the bone.
About the Asian ingredients. There are no substitutes for hoisin sauce, five spice powder, or sesame oil. They are responsible for most of what we think of as the flavor of Chinese and Asian-inspired food in the US. Five spice powder is easy to make at home (click the link above for my recipe), but the others are not easily made. Click on the links for more info on these ingredients. If you have trouble finding them in your grocery store, try Amazon.com.
About the hot sauce. If you have an Asian-style chili sauce you can use it, but any old hot sauce will work fine in this marinade since it provides more heat than flavor. The recipe above produces mild heat. Add more if you love pain.
About the food coloring. Food coloring is necessary for the authentic color. I am told by readers that you can substitute beet root powder for the red food coloring or fermented bean red curd, but I've never tried them. There is very little used in this recipe and most is discarded with the unused marinade. There are natural food colorings made from achiote and its seeds annato, or cochineal (a.k.a. carmine), an insect. If you want to leave it out, the food will still be great, but it won't have the traditional festive color.
Metric conversion:

These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page

Method

  • Prep. Remove the membrane from the rack of ribs. Cut the rack in to individual ribs.
  • Mix the marinade thoroughly in a bowl. Don't skip the booze. It helps penetrate, and even if you're a teetotaler, don't worry, there isn't any measurable alcohol in the meat. Yes, I know alcohol can dry meat out, but I just think it works well in this case. If you must skip it, substitute apple juice or water. You can substitute fresh ginger and garlic for powdered ginger and garlic if you wish.
    Char siu ribs on a rack
  • Marinate. Marinate the meat for 1 to 2 hours in a metal bowl or zipper bags. Discard the used marinade. It is contaminated with meat juice. Don't marinate in a plastic bowl if you use the food coloring. It might stain.
  • Fire up. As much as we are fans of outdoor cooking, this meat also tastes great cooked in an indoor oven. Either way, heat your cooker or oven to about 225°F in the indirect zone.
  • Cook. If you are grilling, set up in a 2-zone or Indirect system. Make sure the meat is not directly over the flame on a grill. Indoors, put a pan of water with a rack on top of it under the meat. This is important or drippings will burn in the pan. Roast ribs for about 3 hours, loin strips for about 1 1/2 hours. If you grill, skip the smoking wood. I think it is cleaner and brighter sans lumber.
  • Serve. Once completely cooked, slice the rack of ribs between the bones and serve.