Monday, 8 September 2014

Salt and Pepper Ribs (椒鹽排骨)

I could do with perfecting this recipe, as it's the first time I tried it. I would like to try the "double-frying" method mentioned in many recipes, but I tried slow-cooking to see if the tenderness could be retained, and to get some juices for a sauce.

Last weekend, we went to meet up with some rather wonderful friends, Simon and Kate, whom I can always rely on for belly laughs. The children were so unwilling to leave that we ended up going for dinner at the New Orchid Garden.

I was pleasantly surprised! I don't often go to Chinese restaurants that predominantly cater for western people, because the menus are very different, and the staff tend to look at you suspiciously, making you feel like a fraud. Then there's the usual "should I speak English or Chinese? Should I speak Cantonese or Mandarin? What on earth should I order from this menu? Should we put all of the dishes in the middle of the table, or does everyone stick to their own chosen dish? Aaarrrggghhhh!" internal conversation.

Nevertheless, we had a lovely meal, the service was very good and we all left feeling stuffed. The children behaved until we left, two hours after their bedtime! And they loved the prawn crackers. I felt a bit traitorous ordering foo yung and chips for them though.

The eldest loved the salt and pepper ribs, and salt and pepper anything tends to be a favourite of mine (although I prefer squid or chicken wings). I've tried to recreate the recipe, but it will need a little work, and an update next time I make it.



  • 12-15 meaty pork ribs
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1/2 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, thinly sliced
  • Coriander for garnish (optional)
  • Sunflower oil for deep frying
Serves 4



  • Heat a wok or a heavy-based pan and add the salt, black peppercorns and Szechuan peppercorns. Stir them around for a couple of minutes, until they begin to release their aromas. Be careful not to let them burn
  • Remove from the wok and allow to cool. Crush in a pestle and mortar, then stir in the five-spice powder
  • Add the corn starch to the soy sauce and Shaoxing rice wine, and mix the marinade well
  • Add half of the salt and pepper mixture to the marinade and mix well
  • Pour the marinade over the ribs, and stir well. Cover and leave overnight in the refrigerator
  • Put the ribs into a slow cooker, add the water  and cook on low for 4-5 hours. After this, remove the ribs, drain off any excess liquid (retain if you want to make a sauce) and sprinkle the remaining salt and pepper mixture over the ribs
  • Heat approx. 3-4 cm depth of sunflower oil in a wok until the oil is moving around. You will know when it is ready if you put the end of a wooden chopstick in the wok, and bubbles start to appear
  • Add the ribs, 5-6 at a time, and deep-fry for 3 minutes until golden and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper between batches
  • When the ribs are all cooked, transfer to a warmed plate. Remove all but 1 tbsp oil from the wok
  • Heat the oil to a medium-high heat and add the sliced onions. Stir-fry quickly for 1 minute until the onions turn glossy. Add the garlic and chilli and stir-fry for a further minute.
  • If you wish to make a sauce for your ribs, add the retained juices from the slow-cooking process to the wok, and boil hard until the volume is reduced by 1/3, and the sauce is thickened and glossy
  • Pour the onion mixture over the ribs and serve immediately
Salt and Pepper Ribs (椒鹽排骨)

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