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Cantonese-style Steamed Spare Ribs: A Delicious Dim Sum Delight

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Cantonese-style Steamed Spare Ribs are a beloved dish often enjoyed at dim sum restaurants. This dish features tender pork ribs marinated in a flavorful mix of soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and black beans, then steamed to perfection. The result is a savory and aromatic dish that’s both comforting and delicious. While it may seem like a restaurant-exclusive treat, it’s surprisingly easy to prepare at home.

Culinary Heritage and Significance

Cantonese cuisine, originating from the Guangdong province in southern China, is known for its subtle flavors, fresh ingredients, and diverse cooking techniques. Steaming is a common method in Cantonese cooking, as it preserves the natural flavors and nutrients of the ingredients. Steamed Spare Ribs are a popular choice at dim sum, a traditional Cantonese meal enjoyed as a series of small dishes served with tea.

Ingredients

To prepare Cantonese-style Steamed Spare Ribs, gather the following ingredients:

For the Ribs:

  • Pork Spare Ribs: 1 lb, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt: 1/2 tsp
  • Baking Soda: 1/2 tsp (optional, for tenderizing)
  • Cold Water: To cover the ribs

For the Marinade:

  • Fermented Black Beans: 1 tbsp, rinsed and mashed
  • Soy Sauce: 2 tbsp
  • Oyster Sauce: 1 tbsp
  • Shaoxing Wine (or dry sherry): 1 tbsp
  • Sesame Oil: 1 tsp
  • Sugar: 1 tsp
  • Garlic: 3 cloves, minced
  • Ginger: 1-inch piece, minced
  • Cornstarch: 1 tbsp
  • White Pepper: 1/4 tsp

For Garnish:

  • Scallions: 2, chopped
  • Red Chili Pepper: 1, thinly sliced (optional)

Preparation and Cooking Instructions

  1. Prepare the Ribs:
    • Place the pork spare ribs in a bowl. Add salt, baking soda (if using), and enough cold water to cover the ribs. Mix well and let it soak for 30 minutes. This step helps to remove impurities and tenderize the meat.
    • Drain and rinse the ribs thoroughly under cold water. Pat them dry with paper towels.
  2. Marinate the Ribs:
    • In a large bowl, combine the mashed fermented black beans, soy sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, sugar, minced garlic, minced ginger, cornstarch, and white pepper. Mix well to form the marinade.
    • Add the prepared ribs to the marinade, ensuring each piece is well-coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour, to allow the flavors to meld.
  3. Prepare the Steamer:
    • Fill a wok or large pot with enough water to reach just below the steaming rack or bamboo steamer. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
  4. Steam the Ribs:
    • Arrange the marinated ribs in a single layer on a heatproof plate or shallow dish that fits inside your steamer. Make sure to pour any remaining marinade over the ribs.
    • Place the plate on the steaming rack or in the bamboo steamer. Cover and steam over high heat for 20-25 minutes, until the ribs are tender and cooked through.
  5. Serve:
    • Carefully remove the plate from the steamer. Garnish the steamed ribs with chopped scallions and sliced red chili pepper, if using.
    • Serve hot with steamed rice or as part of a dim sum spread.

Tips for Perfect Cantonese-style Steamed Spare Ribs

  • Choosing the Ribs: Select pork spare ribs with a good amount of meat and some marbling for the best flavor and tenderness. Cutting the ribs into bite-sized pieces allows them to cook evenly and makes them easier to eat.
  • Tenderizing the Meat: Soaking the ribs in a mixture of baking soda and water helps to tenderize the meat and remove any gamey odor. Rinsing thoroughly afterward is essential to remove any residual baking soda.
  • Steaming Method: Ensure the steamer is well-sealed to retain steam and maintain a consistent temperature. Avoid opening the lid during steaming to prevent heat loss.
  • Marinating Time: Allowing the ribs to marinate for at least 30 minutes helps to infuse the meat with the flavors of the marinade, resulting in a more flavorful dish.

Serving Suggestions

Cantonese-style Steamed Spare Ribs can be enjoyed in various ways:

  • Dim Sum: Serve as part of a dim sum spread along with dumplings, buns, and other small dishes.
  • Main Course: Pair with steamed jasmine rice or fried rice for a satisfying meal.
  • Side Dish: Complement a larger meal featuring other Chinese dishes such as stir-fried vegetables, soups, and noodle dishes.

Nutritional Benefits

  • Pork: Provides a good source of protein, essential vitamins, and minerals such as iron and zinc, which are crucial for overall health.
  • Fermented Black Beans: Rich in protein, fiber, and beneficial probiotics that support gut health and digestion.

Conclusion

Cantonese-style Steamed Spare Ribs are a delightful dish that showcases the elegance and simplicity of Cantonese cuisine. The tender pork ribs, infused with the rich flavors of black beans, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce, create a harmonious and satisfying meal. This dish is not only a favorite at dim sum restaurants but also a wonderful addition to any home-cooked meal. By following this recipe, you can bring the authentic taste of Cantonese-style Steamed Spare Ribs to your kitchen, impressing family and friends with its delicious flavors and tender texture. Enjoy the culinary journey and the rich heritage of Cantonese cooking with this delectable dish.

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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