Char Siu Pork Ribs

Tonight’s dinner was Char Siu Pork Ribs, a style of marinaded, Cantonese rib known for its deep flavor and deep red color.

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The first step was preparing the ribs.  I had a small problem there.  I got the ribs from the grocery this morning and they were frozen solid.

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The first thing I had to do was defrost them.  I submerged them in cold water in my sink while I made the marinade.  This thawed them out quickly, while keeping them at a safe temperature.

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It only took about 40 minutes to defrost the ribs. After 40 minutes in the sink, the ribs were just over 40° F.  If I’d had a large hunk of meat, I’d have used a cold water bath in the frig to ensure that the meat didn’t warm to an unsafe temperature.  For these light, thin ribs, the sink worked fine.

The marinade contains several typical Chinese ingredients, including hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, garlic, ginger and chilies.

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I started by mashing the chilies, ginger, garlic and onions into a course paste.

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I’d gotten a mortar and pestle for Christmas.  This was the first time I’d tried it. It worked well enough, but next time I might simply run everything through the food processor.

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That would be easier, quicker and break the vegetables up more uniformly.

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I added the liquid ingredients and whisked them to combine. The liquid ingredients include a lot of red food coloring. Traditionally, char siu is sold from stalls, carts or shops which display it hanging from the cart or in the window. I suspect that, much like tandoori chicken, the bright red from the food coloring is intended to catch the eye and make the food more appealing.

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I considered using a natural food coloring, like beet juice or achiote powder, but I didn’t have these on hand.  So I went with the “Super Chinese Red” coloring from my cake decorating box.  It really delivered the red. This recipe makes a lot of ribs, so I had to improvise a two tiered rack to hold them all.

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The ribs baked at 225° F  for 3 hours.  Obviously, if it was a bit warmer outside I would have used my Big Green Egg.

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A quick garnish with some toasted sesame seeds and they were ready to serve.  They were every bit as good as they look.


Recipe – Serves 8


5 small, hot chili peppers, like Thai or bird peppers, diced
½ small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 inch piece fresh ginger,  diced
½ cup hoisin sauce
½ cup red wine
¼ cup honey
¼ cup soy sauce
2 TBS sesame seed oil
1 TBS five spice powder
1 TBS fish sauce
1 tsp red food coloring
2 full racks pork ribs
sesame seeds for garnish


For marinade, roughly dice the chili peppers, onion, garlic and ginger.  In a mortar and pestle grind into a thick paste or puree in a food processor or blender.

Place paste in a medium sized bowl and add hoisin, red wine, honey, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, five spice powder, fish sauce and food coloring. Mix.

Remove silver skin from back of rib racks.  Cut racks into individual ribs.  Place in large zip lock plastic bag or bowl.  Add marinade.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Overnight is better.

Pre-heat oven or grill to 225° F.  Place drip pan with 1” of water on bottom rack. If using grill, set up for indirect heat.

Remove ribs from marinade.  Arrange ribs on large rack and place over drip pan.  Roast for approximately 3 hours, until ribs are tender and deep red.

Remove ribs from oven. Place on serving plate and garnish with sesame seeds.

Serve with rice.

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About fzinger

I read and I write. I read a lot and I write when I can.
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