The trick to making this dish is to ensure a proper ratio of meat and liquid. The starch from the browned pork ribs will thicken the liquid during simmering and that will be the sauce. If you use too much liquid, the sauce will be too soupy.
You’ll need a wide pan for this so that all meat pieces are touching the liquid during cooking. Using a deep pan will mean lots of cooking liquid and that’s not really a good thing. You don’t want to end up with watery sauce.
Does it have to be baby back ribs? No. You may use a boneless cut like pork belly or shoulder. You may even substitute beef or chicken (cooking time will need adjustment)! Just remember that if using a boneless cut whether pork, beef or chicken, the base of the cooking liquid has to be bone broth to get the richness that makes this dish such a standout.
You may cook the dish a day or two in advance. Just arrange the cooked ribs in a heat-proof shallow dish, pour the sauce over them, cool, cover and refrigerate. To reheat, place in a steamer basket so that the pork ribs heat up evenly without any need to touch them or to stir. Take the bowl out of the steamer basket, garnish and serve.
Full recipe below
Sweet spicy orange pork ribs
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 star anise
- 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
- 2 bird’s eye chilies
- 1 ½ kilograms pork baby back ribs - cut between the bones
- ½ cup cornstarch
- cooking oil for browning
- 2 cups bone broth - you may need more
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup fresh orange juice
- zest from two oranges
- 1 one-inch knob ginger - there is no need to slice
- orange wedges
- sliced chilies
- In an oil-free frying pan, toast the cinnamon stick, star anise, Szechuan peppercorns and bird’s eye chilies until aromatic. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the pork ribs with a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper. Add the cornstarch, cover the bowl and shake until all meat pieces are coated with starch.
- In a frying pan, heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of about an inch and a half.
- Brown the pork ribs in the hot oil, turning them around for even browning. Do this in batches, browning only a few pieces at a time.
- Place the browned pork ribs in a wide pan. Ideally, there shouldn’t be more than two layers of meat in the pan.
- Pour the broth, soy sauce and orange juice over the pork ribs. Ideally, there should be just enough liquid to cover the meat.
- Throw in the ginger, orange zest, toasted cinnamon, star anise, Szechuan peppercorns and chilies.
- Simmer the pork ribs, tightly covered, without stirring for an hour to an hour and a half, or until the meat is fork-tender. Taste the sauce every 20 minutes or so. Add more salt, if needed. And, if your orange juice is more on the tart side, you may want to add sugar to the sauce for balance.
- Using tongs, lift out the pork ribs one by one and arrange on a serving plate or bowl.
- Pour the sauce (there won’t be much) over the ribs.
- Garnish your sweet spicy orange pork ribs with orange wedges and sliced chilies.