Every week, we’re spotlighting a different food blogger who’s shaking up the blogosphere with tempting recipes and knockout photography. Here, Mandy Lee of Lady and Pups shares the dish that made her fall in love with barbecue ribs.
These aren’t your average barbecue ribs. Photo: Mandy Lee
To be honest, I don’t think I have ever truly enjoyed barbecue ribs. They’ve always been, to me at least, more enjoyable as an idea — the smile of the pitmaster, the black smoker hissing under the Southern sun, the sense of all American lifestyle — than in actuality. In the end, picking at a pile of ribs that are often borderline dry and overly sweet, I always wondered if I had missed something.
But I love this Northern Chinese dish: cumin spare ribs. They don’t prove themselves by counting the hours they sit inside a black box (to dry out). They don’t need the illusion of lifestyle and tradition. Cumin spare ribs don’t give a hoot about anything but one thing, and one thing only: Do I taste freaking-absolutely awesome?
41 ounces (1160 grams) of spare ribs, uncut
For the marinade:
2 large scallions, cut into segments
5 slices of ginger
1 star anise, crushed
¼ cup soy sauce
3 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Canola oil for frying
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ tablespoon minced ginger
3 small red chilis, diced
4 tablespoons cumin seeds, coarsely ground/crushed
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Flour, for dusting
½ to ¾ teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoon finely diced scallions
Chili oil, to garnish
Marinate the spare ribs: Combine scallions, ginger, crushed star anise, soy sauce, dark brown sugar, and salt together, then rub it evenly over the spare ribs. Let marinate for at least 2 hours to 4 hours, redistributing the marinate a few times in between.
Cook the spare ribs: Wrap the spare ribs tightly with foil. You can steam the ribs over high heat for 40 min to 1 hour, until a fork can be easily inserted into the meat. Or bake in a 320°F/165°C oven, for 1 ½ to 2 hours until a fork can be easily inserted into the meat.
Fry the spare ribs: Combine minced garlic, minced ginger and diced chili together, set aside. In a spice-grinder or stone-mortar, pulse/pound the cumin seeds until coarsely ground, then mix with ground white pepper and set aside.
Remove the ribs from the marinade, then cut in between each rib bone to separate. Add enough canola oil to a flat heavy-bottom (cast iron would be ideal) skillet until it reaches ½ inches (1 cm) in depth, then set over medium-high heat. Very sparingly, dust the ribs with a bit of flour, then fry in the hot oil until browned on both sides. Remove the ribs, then drain the skillet until there’s only 3 tablespoons of oil left.
Add the minced garlic, ginger, and chili mixture, and cook until fragrant (careful not to burn the garlic). Turn the heat down to medium-low, then add the ribs back into the skillet, along with the cumin and white pepper mixture. Toss and cook until the ribs are evenly coated in spices and fragrant. Add the diced scallions and season with sea salt. Drizzle with chili oil if desired, then serve immediately.
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