Sweet and Sour Spareribs (糖醋排骨)

by Yi on March 12, 2011 · 35 comments

Sweet and Sour Spareribs (糖醋排骨)

Just to clarify before you get confused by the name of the dish, this sweet and sour ribs recipe is in NO relation to the household name sweet and sour (pick your choice from 1.chicken, 2.pork, 3.shrimp) which is on every single Chinese takeout restaurant’s menu here in North America. If you are looking for a recipe for this lightly battered deep fried chicken (or pork and shrimp) that comes with the red sweet and sour sauce, you’ll be disappointed and I do apologize. But if you are adventurous enough to learn what the sweet and sour means to 1.3 billion Chinese people, you ought to read on.

Sweet and sour spareribs are got to be one of best known rib dishes in China. In Chinese, it is literally called “sugar and vinegar spareribs”( in Chinese) which indicates the main ingredients of this dish. In China the ribs are traditionally deep fried then coated in a super delicious sweet and sour sauce. That’s how I had been making it until last year when I came across this modified recipe from my aunt in China.

This deep-fry-free recipe is not only healthier than the original version but also a lot easier to make as long as you have the right ingredients and follow the suggested recipe hereJ.  When I cooked this recipe for the first time last year I was totally blown away by how easy and how good these ribs were. It makes me drool every time I think about these savory and succulent ribs covered in finger licking sauce. Plus you’ll hardly need a knife as they will be falling off the bone tender.

To make these killer ribs, you’ll need Chinese black rice vinegar preferably the one from Zhenjiang (aka Chingkiang), China.  If you really can’t find black vinegar  use white rice vinegar instead. In terms of meat, try to use fresh meaty baby-back ribs if you can. To make serving easier I normally have my butcher cut the ribs half across the rack so each piece is about 2-3 inch long. Leave some fat on the ribs as it will be totally rendered at the end.

Follow the simple step-by-step recipe below and you’ll guarantee to have your carnivorous cravings satisfied.

Sweet and Sour Spareribs – Ingredients

2 Lb Spareribs cut to 2-3 inch pieces

½ cup Sugar

¼ cup Black vinegar

3 tbsp Soy sauce

4 cup Water

1 Scallion, cut to 2 inch long pieces

3 slice Ginger

1 Bay leaf

1 clove Garlic, minced

Roasted sesame seeds for garnishing

Sweet and Sour Spareribs – Step By Step

1. Soak the ribs in cold water for at least half an hour to get rid of blood. Clean thoroughly in running water. Drain off the excess water.

2. In a wok or medium size skillet over medium heat, combined the ribs, 2/3 of sugar, water, ginger, scallion, and bay leave. Once boiled, cover and let it simmer in low heat for about 2 hours. Turn the ribs occasionally.


3. After two hours discard the scallions, bay leaf, and ginger. Turn the heat to medium, let the liquid reduce to about 1 cup. Add rest of the sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce. By now the fat from the ribs should be mostly rendered and the liquid should be relatively dense and sticky like a maple syrup. Continue to reduce the liquid until it can stick to the ribs. Turn off the heat and toss in the minced garlic. Add salt if needed.

Sprinkle some roasted sesame seeds and serve the ribs hot. Can be served as an appetizer with beer or an entrée with rice / noodles.

WARNING: these ribs are highly addictive, please enjoy responsibly.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carl Miller November 2, 2014 at 11:55 pm

Hi. I’m planning on making these ribs tomorrow, but I have one question. After boiling the ribs for two hours & discarding the scallions, bay leaf, & ginger, I’m supposed to turn the heat to medium & reduce the liquid to 1 cup. While reducing the liquid, are the ribs still in the hot liquid, or do I pull them out at this point. It just seemed to me that after two hours of cooking, if they were left in the liquid when the sauce is reducing, they would be cooking for a long, long time, & I thought the meat might be almost dissolving. So, leave ribs in while reducing liquid, or take them out? Which should I do? Please respond back to my email address. Thank you.

Reply

2 Yi November 9, 2014 at 11:27 am

Hi Carl,

Sorry for getting back to you late.
Not sure if you already made the ribs but to answer your question, you’ll leave the ribs cooking while reducing the sauce. I know 2+ hours of cooking sounds long but the first two hours you are simmering so the meat wouldn’t dissolve but tender enough to fall off the bone easily.
I hope this answers your question. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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3 MIMI February 28, 2014 at 5:04 pm

hey can i use white viniger instead ?

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4 Yi February 28, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Hi Mimi yes you can use white vinegar. It tastes slightly different but still good though.

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5 Amy August 25, 2013 at 12:03 am

Hihi.. i think i overcooked the ribs…. the sauce is not sticking =(
what should i do? thanks in advance!

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6 Ron July 5, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I made these ribs the other night, and I have to admit that throughout the cooking process, they looked quite unappetizing. I was really starting to feel a bit apprehensive about having decided to try this recipe. Then at around 5 minutes before the end of cooking, the sauce started to thicken quickly and began to coat the ribs. With a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds and a little sliced scallion it made a beautiful presentation. I was blown away by how delicious these ribs were and how simple they were to make using a minimum of ingredients. This recipe is definitely a keeper. Thank you so much for sharing this gem with us.

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7 Yi July 7, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Hi Ron, I am so happy that you loved the rib recipe. This is one of my favorite “simple but delicious” recipes and I get never get tired of these ribs. Thanks again for vising my site!

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8 Anonymous June 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I made these last night and they were great, I even put a little honey on as well near the end of cooking

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9 Yi July 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Hello, thanks for your feedback. I’ve yet tried with honey but that sounds great. I bet your glaze is extra finger-licking delicious!

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10 Dee Plante June 18, 2013 at 12:51 am

Hi,
I’m living in China and I had these ribs, they were to die for! I tried this recipe for a bunch of my friends, but I thought that there was too much water and it didn’t reduce as much as I would have liked. I ended up adding more Chinese vinegar, ginger etc to compensate for the large amount of water. What did I do wrong? (they were still wonderful and everyone loved them)

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11 Yi July 7, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Hi Dee, thanks for your feedback. The sauce gets reduced as you cook the ribs over time. As the sauce reduces, you’ll see the glaze forms around the ribs.If you were to make these again, I’d suggest adding slightly less water and reduce the sauce for at least 30 minutes over high heat (without lid). Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks

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12 Elee April 7, 2013 at 10:10 am

Love this dish and had to try this recipe. Made with full ribs but next time will try the rib tips (that are generally cheaper anyway).

To lower the fat and carbs (not that it made much difference) I used nectress and reduced the initial sugar in water. Since you are not really carmelizing this water, it won’t really even make a difference to omit the sugar altogether in this step.

I boiled the ribs for 3 hours. Then I drained the liquid and put it in the fridge. The fat cooled and was removed. Then I put the drained liquid in with the ribs, added sugar vinegar, and a bit of cayenne pepper (for zing). OMG….the results are incredible.

I plan to make this for my sister and I know she will love this dish over rice. I know I do…

Reply

13 Ly March 30, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Sounds delicious. Will have to try this next weekend. Thanks for the recipe. This sounds very similar to Philippine adobo and paksiw, though the flavour I think is slightly different.

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14 Yi March 31, 2013 at 9:00 am

hello Ly, thanks for checking out this recipe. I agree is it similar to the adobo. Please let me know how you like it.

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15 Leng January 3, 2013 at 12:47 am

Tried this – absolutely loved it! Thanks for sharing this masterpiece of yours!

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16 Yi January 4, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Hi Leng, thanks for trying the recipe. Just checked out your blog and it looks amazing!

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17 Cam November 18, 2012 at 10:05 am

Hi…. bought some ribs yesterday and will be making this for my son…. I’m heading out to pick up a bottle of chin. black vinegar as I’d like to try it with the real deal……Will let you know how it comes out later on….I espec. like that I don’t have to deep fry the pork…….I”m doing the curried pork ribs for me !!

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18 Yi November 18, 2012 at 10:19 am

Hello Camille, thanks for dropping by. I am so excited to hear that you are making the ribs today. Please let me know how it comes out. Thanks.

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19 Willow July 5, 2012 at 9:36 am

Thank you so much for posting an authentic recipe for Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs without the deep frying! :) I cannot tell you how much I love this recipe and will make it part of my everyday cooking. Rest assured I will share this recipe with friends.

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20 Yi July 5, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Hi Willow thanks for your kind words. Although I enjoy the original fried version, this alternative method is just as tasty. I am really glad that you appreciate this non-fried version. Please let me know how it comes out :)

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21 Willow July 9, 2012 at 6:54 am

I made the ribs the same night I posted the first comment and I am glad I did. The ribs were delicious and I will make them again! :) I am going to use less sugar though, I found them a little sweet for my taste but my husband loved them as is, :).

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22 Yi July 9, 2012 at 10:14 pm

thanks for the feedback I am glad that you and your husband liked it. Yes please feel free to make adjustments to adapt to your own preference.

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23 Has May 24, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Hi, found out your blog when i did search for pork recipe on foodgawker. I tried your peking pork and absolutely love it, hubby agrees too. Thanks for sharing your recipes with the world! Will be cooking many of your recipes soon!

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24 Yi May 25, 2012 at 1:02 am

Hi Has, thanks for your kind comments. I am happy to hear that you liked the Peking pork recipe. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. thanks.

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25 Has July 9, 2012 at 12:11 am

Hi again! Just wanting to tell you that today i will be cooking this sweet n sour recipe for the 3rd time already! Lol my hubby loves it very much. I try not to eat pork too often for health reasons but what is chinese cooking w/o pork, but do you think this recipe will work if i use beef ribs? Cant wait to cook this for my parents when they come to visit me.
Also, do you have recipe to make sizhuan spicy dandan mian with sesame sauce?I always eat this noodle dish at nearby resto and wanting to try to make it on my own.

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26 Yi July 9, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I am so happy to hear that you and your husband like this dish. To answer your question yes you can definitely use beef ribs. I’ve never done it but I’d imagine it will be at last as good as the pork ribs. Please let me know how it turns out.
Yes I’d be happy to share a dan dan noodle recipe. Please stay tuned!

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27 Paul February 21, 2012 at 11:14 am

My wife is from Sichuan and makes these however without the sugar. In addition she adds some other spices to the mix, namely: one star anise, about 1/8 t of nutmeg, 1/2 t of cardamon, 1/2 t of cinnamon and two or three cloves. Delicious too but I admit I do like the added sweetness from the sugar.

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28 Yi February 22, 2012 at 1:29 am

Hi Paul, thanks for your visit. Yes the rib dish you described is also a common dish from Sichuan. I normally call it red cooked ribs or braised ribs….now you are making me want to cook some of that soon :)

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29 Janet February 3, 2012 at 6:52 am

Hi Yi, I just found your site and it looks great. I plan on making these ribs soon. What would you serve with it ?

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30 Yi February 6, 2012 at 1:38 am

Thanks for your visit Janet, I like to serve these ribs with steamed white rice.

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31 Linda July 2, 2011 at 9:44 am

These are the best Spare ribs! Thanks for sharing this recipe!
it was really easy to make, too.

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32 Yi July 2, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Hi Linda, thanks for checking out the ribs recipe!

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33 Bob March 12, 2011 at 10:15 am

I LOVE these sweet and sour ribs. I had them on a trip to China a few years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. Now I’ll just need to find some of that black vinegar! Thanks!

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34 Yi March 13, 2011 at 1:08 am

Hi Bob, the black rice vinegar is available in every Chinese grocery store. If you really can’t find it use regular rice vinegar. Let me know how it came out!

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35 Elee April 7, 2013 at 10:11 am

Love this dish and had to try this recipe. Made with full ribs but next time will try the rib tips (that are generally cheaper anyway).

To lower the fat and carbs (not that it made much difference) I used nectress and reduced the initial sugar in water. Since you are not really carmelizing this water, it won’t really even make a difference to omit the sugar altogether in this step.

I boiled the ribs for 3 hours. Then I drained the liquid and put it in the fridge. The fat cooled and was removed. Then I put the drained liquid in with the ribs, added sugar vinegar, and a bit of cayenne pepper (for zing). OMG….the results are incredible.

I plan to make this for my sister and I know she will love this dish over rice. I know I do…

Reply

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