Have you ever had your appetite wet for something, only to be forced to settle for something else instead? I had been craving Asian Marinated Flank Steak with a side of Spicy Asian Stir-Fry Spaghetti– a family favorite that we haven’t had in a while. You know how it is when you get it in your head that this is what you want, and you are crushed when life gets in the way. It’s like driving to your favorite ice cream parlor for a big scoop of Butter Brickle only to find the place closed. There you are, with your nose pressed against the glass, knowing that no other ice cream flavor will do and this is the only place in town to serve it.
And so it was the first time I made these sticky, delightful spare ribs. The flank steak needed to marinate over night, which would have been fine had life not swallowed up time as it sometimes does. Still, I wanted something with an Asian influence, something that would complement my spicy Stir-Fried Spaghetti. Searching through my recipes, I found a recipe for Filipino Spare Ribs – so it was out with the Flank Steak, in with the ribs. Sunday morning it was off to the market with a revised shopping list in hand. As it turned out, the spare ribs were perfect – satisfying that yearning in ways I had not expected.
Naturally when it came time to cook up the ribs, I had to play around with the recipe just a little. The original recipe had you cook up the ribs in a pot, then transfer them to a baking dish and finish them off in the oven. That was all well and good, the cooking process was left unchanged. However; the original recipe wasted what I found to be one of the yummiest part – the meat juices. In the original recipe, after the ribs had cooked in the pot for a while, you transferred them to a baking dish, discarding the juices while making a glaze with soy sauce and finely chopped onions. The onions were cooked down in soy sauce, then “blended” until smooth. The onion-infused soy sauce was then placed back into a pot to be thickened with honey and brown sugar. All I could think was “are you kidding me? Dump out this wonderful, flavorful pot of meat juices! Why not strain the juice and use it as the base for the glaze?” Which is exactly what I did. And oh me oh my – it was delicious!
Be sure to have moist towelettes at the ready because you’re going to need them! These ribs are sticky – finger-licking good! And one last word of caution – while the ribs are simmering, the aroma floating from the kitchen is incredible – it will get your appetite primed and ready.
Sticky Filipino Spare Ribs
3-4 pounds pork spare ribs, trimmed
1 Yellow Onion, cut into wedges
6 tablespoons soy sauce
4 whole star anise pods
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
Trim ribs of excess fat. Cut ribs as needed to fit into a 5 to 6 quart stock pot (cut in half worked for me). Set aside. Place onion wedges into pot with soy sauce and star anise. Place ribs on top and bring all to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and let simmer in meat juices until ribs are tender when pierced, about 2 1/2 hours. Every 30 minutes, switch ribs so that those stacked at bottom are now on top. This will allow ribs to soak in the meat juices evenly.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Remove ribs from pot and arrange in a single layer on baking sheet.
Strain meat juices into a small pot. Add ginger, honey, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice to pot. Whisk over medium heat until bubbling and sugar has dissolved.
Generously brush ribs with honey glaze and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Brush a second time with the glaze mid-way through. Remove from oven and brush one last time just before serving.