Marsha Kremen

While perusing epicurious.com (one of my favorite Internet recipe sites) for a recipe to take to a Memorial Day potluck, I ran across this unique and very flavorful treatment for ribs. The recipe is originally from Lobel’s Meat Bible by Stanley, Evan, Mark and David Lobel with Mary Goodbody and David Whiteman. I’ve modified the recipe slightly and can attest that you can vary some of the proportions a bit without negative impact. This recipe is such a hit that I get asked for it all the time. There are quite a few ingredients here but this dish is well worth the effort. The dipping sauce is a must.

Serves four as a main course, eight as an appetizer. I frequently double the recipe.

Thai-Style Pork Spareribs

1 cup sliced shallots
10 scallions, coarsely chopped
3-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
8 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro including thin stems (and roots if possible)—about 1 bunch
6 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh coarsely ground black pepper 
2 tablespoons sugar
4 pounds pork spareribs (see notes)

Place all ingredients except the ribs into a food processor and process to a loose, finely chopped paste.

Place the ribs in a large bowl or heavy resealable plastic bags. Thoroughly coat the ribs with the marinade, massaging the paste into the flesh for a minute or so. Cover and marinate at room temperature for two hours or up to five hours in the refrigerator, tossing once or twice.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the ribs out, bone-side down, on large parchment-lined baking sheets and bake until ribs are deeply colored and very tender but not yet falling from the bone, about an hour and a half, occasionally rotating the pans to promote even cooking. Remove from the oven and serve with the Thai Chili-Herb Dipping Sauce.

Thai Chili-Herb Dipping Sauce

Makes about 2/3 cup

1 tablespoon jasmine or another long-grain rice
6-8 dried whole Thai chilis (each about 2 inches long)
1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
1/3 cup fresh lime juice

Place the rice in a small skillet over medium heat and cook, shaking the pan until fragrant and lightly toasted, less than 1 minute. Transfer rice to a spice or coffee grinder and let cool. Process cooled rice until almost powered, transfer to a small bowl and reserve.

Place the chilis in the same skillet and cook over medium heat until lightly toasted, 30 to 45 seconds, shaking the skillet to avoid burning. Transfer the chilis to a spice or coffee grinder and let cool. Pulse the grinder until the chilis are coarsely chopped, or mash with a mortar and pestle. Transfer the chilis to the bowl with the rice.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cover and reserve. The sauce can be made a few hours ahead and kept at room temperature. You may also store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week, however the bright colors will fade.

Cook’s notes on the ribs: The recipe calls for pork spare ribs cut across the bone into one- to three-inch “racks,” each rack cut between the bones into individual two- to three-inch long riblets. I find that baby back ribs work great cut into one- to three-rib pieces depending on how much meat is on the ribs.

On the chilis: I find that eight chilis make a fairly spicy sauce that I like but you can certainly adjust to your own heat tolerance. 

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