"It's not much but it's ours"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


One of the real benefits of working from home is that, in between writing articles, working on proposals for new books or firing off answers to the plethora of e-mails that have filled my inbox every morning, I get to cook.

I get to cook a lot.

Oddly enough, Sybil does not seem to mind returning home to find the scent of a hot supper filling her nostrils, particularly when that smell emanates from something that once went “oink”. She is definitely a fan of her porcine products and anytime I suggest a pig centric supper the offer is greeted with a nod of enthusiasm.

Today, it was rib time. Butchers in L.A are, if I am being brutally honest, a bit ropey and, although it might surprise people to hear it, I have found much of the quality of what I buy to be well below what I can find in London, even at a supermarket.

That being said, I do have a semi decent butcher within walking distance and one thing that he always has on offer is a great selection of ribs. There are meaty spare ribs, chunky beef ribs and, best of all, my personal favourite baby backs. I buy these more often than my cardiologist might advise and have any number of ways to prepare them.

Today, for some reason, my thoughts turned to Char Siu, that bright red pork preparation that is such a favourite in Chinese restaurants. I had tried to make it a few times before, but usually using pork loin, which is my least favourite park of the pig. I can’t help feeling every time I eat it, that I might as well be eating the paper it was wrapped in for all the flavour it gives out.

Ribs on the other hand are a different animal (well, part of the animal, but you know what I mean) altogether and I decided to pick up a couple of slabs of baby backs from Denny, my butcher at Victor’s and give them the char siu treatment.

The results were, I am delighted to say, a huge success as we polished off one thick slab with another left to feed us both for tomorrow. Just in case anyone is vaguely interested in giving it a go, the recipe is below.

2 Slabs of Baby Back Pork Ribs (ask the butcher to remove the membrane)

3 Cloves Garlic (Peeled & Minced)
2 Inches of Fresh Ginger (Peeled & Minced)
2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 Tbsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
1 Tsp White Pepper
3 Tbs Honey
¼ Cup Dark Soy Sauce
¼ Cup Brandy (Optional)
¼ Rice Wine or Dry Sherry
¼ Cup Vegetable Oil
½ Cup Hoisin Sauce
3 Tbsp Sesame Oil
1 Lemon (Juice & Zest)

¼ Cup Tomato Ketchup
¼ Cup Hoisin Sauce
3 Tbsp Honey
¼ Cup Brandy (Optional – use orange juice of you don’t want to use alcohol)

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a saucepan and heat through until the honey has melted and they have all combined together.
Allow the marinade to cool and then massage well into the ribs.
Place the ribs in a Zip Loc bag and allow to marinate for at least four hours (better over night)
Line a large baking tray with foil and place a wire rack on top.
When the ribs have marinated, place them on the wire rack and pour a little water underneath. This will create steam as they cook and keep the ribs moist.
Place two layers of foil over the ribs and fold to create a complete seal. Again this will keep the steam in and keep the ribs moist while cooking.
Cook the ribs at 400F/220C for around two hours.
While the ribs are cooking, prepare the glaze by heating all the ingredients in a pan over a gentle heat.
After two hours, remove the top layer of foil to reveal the ribs.
Glaze each slab and return to the oven.
Cook at 450F/230C for ten minutes, being careful they do not burn.
Glaze once more and cook for a final ten minutes, again making sure they do not burn.
Give the ribs one final glaze and serve with white rice and lots of napkins.

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Anonymous Tana said...

I would think that you could encourage your local butcher to get better meats, and tell him that all of Los Angeles would form a line down the 405 if they knew where they could get them.

People would pay the premium.

"Endorsed, ringingly, by Simon Majumdar, Iron Chef Judge."

Just a thought, love.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 3:58:00 am  
Anonymous Karl said...

And it's not just the pork that is below standard-for us.
I found that in the USA, the food is largely tasteless.The fruit and veg looks nice but has no taste.Nectarines that taste of cotton wool;peaches that are yellow but on a blind tasting I would not be able to say it was a peach.Berries that were large,but again wooly.And the veg is similar-lots of choice but very low on flavour.I dont know if this is due to the intense farming methods, or the picking and storing process, but it was very disappointing.No wonder they sauce and sugar everything to the Nth degree.Sorry for the blanket statements, but that was my experience during a 3 week stint.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 9:20:00 am  
Anonymous TonyS said...

400F/220C for 2 hours seems a bit fierce. I'd have thought 180C would have been plenty.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 9:30:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yum. My friend's family, who are Cantonese, always do char siu ribs at the many Chinese BBQs they have throughout the year. Needless to say, they always get polished off supremely quickly.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 10:15:00 am  
Blogger NP said...

I've been doing spareribs and baby backs from Costco and re-trim them.... There is a local good butcher near me in South Orange County; but for what he charges I can trim the Costco meat just as easily.

Shame: Coming from the UK; a local butcher would have had a nice perfect slab of ribs (or any pork product). Pork here is so poorly prepared as a cut meat product.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 7:51:00 pm  
Blogger Debs @ DKC said...

I'm the biggest char siu fan going LOL. Never thought of using ribs though; I'll have to try that.

I note what you say about the pork loin, BUT the recipe I use gives the most moist and succulent pork char siu you've ever tasted, give this method a try and let me know what you think! Debs Char Siu Pork method

Sunday, March 20, 2011 8:31:00 am  
Anonymous catering consultancy said...

Anywhere you go, at any casual dining places or events, baby back ribs would often result to familiar gastronomic moans and cheers upon the sight and smell emanating from this chunky beef.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011 9:13:00 am  

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