Sweet and Sour Rib (Tang Cu Pai Gu)is a quite popular dish in China. However, mostly people will eat it in restaurant rather than at home since restaurant version is quite hard to achieve at home. This is Elaine’s simplified homemade version without deep-frying. First published 2014 and updated in Nov, 2015 with a video.
Restrictively, spare ribs are selected as the main ingredients. The popularity is not only due to its delicious taste but also its beautiful color.
For restaurant style sweet and sour ribs, spare ribs are firstly marinated and then deep-fried in hot oil for less than 1 minute. This step creates a crispy surface and a tender inner part, at the same time, ribs are almost cooked. After stir frying the sugar color, other ingredients are well combined. At the last step, ribs are placed in the sauce for coating. Usually we do not have such strong fire at home and deep-frying process requires a large amount of oil.
In this home version, we simmer the ribs along with the sauce and then thicken the sauce at the last stage. The texture is slightly different from restaurant version but quite comforting.
Sweet and sour is a popular taste in many Chinese cuisine and it can be achieved by different ingredients. For example, in well known Chinese sweet and sour sauce, ketchup is used. However for this recipe, we use black vinegar, soy sauce and sugar color (dark red rock sugar color) to create the bright red color.
Sugar color (糖色) is melted sugar with oil, usually presenting a red dark color. This cooking method is also used in many other dishes like this red braised pork belly. Comparing with the color bought by light soy sauce or ketchup, sugar color has stronger viscidity.
Besides, I high recommend cutting the spare ribs into small sections around 1 inch so they can be flavored.
- 1 pound spare ribs (cut into 1 to 1.5 inch sections)
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 30-35g mashed rock sugar
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons cooking wine
- 3 tablespoon black vinegar
- 1 teaspoon extra black vinegar
- 1 star anise (optional)
- 3 ginger slices
- 4 green onion white parts
- hot water as needed
- ½ tablespoon white sesame seed for garnishing
- Spring onion for garnishing
- Cut ribs into 1 inch to 1.5 inch sections. Place in a pot with cold water. Bring to boil and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Transfer out and rinse under running warm water. Set aside to drain.
- Add cooking oil and smashed rock sugar in wok, heat over slow fire. Keep stirring until the sugar melts and turns into dark red.
- Add ribs to coat the sugar color, place light soy sauce, cooking wine and black vinegar. Continue stir fry for 2 minutes and pour enough hot water to cover and add ginger, green onion and star anise.
- Cover the lid and simmer for 25 minutes over slowest fire. Stir once or twice in the process. Pick the ginger, green onion and star anise out in the later stage.
- Turn up the fire and thicken the fire. Keep stirring and stop when the sauce is almost adhered to the ribs. Be carefully in the last minutes, do not get your ribs overcooked.
- Add extra 1 teaspoon of black vinegar and sesame seeds. Combine well.
- Garnish chopped spring onions before serving.
The ribs should be drained completely before adding to the wok, otherwise the sugar color might splash out.
Sorry I spoil the pictures because I was only given two minutes. And my eaters carve them up in 5 minutes.