Char Siew (Ribs) – 叉燒

_MG_0027Once in a while you’ll come across a recipe that will blow your noodle and definitely make your top five list of the most amazing thing you’ve ever eaten. Last Sunday, just such a recipe made our list on the Big Green Asian Egg blog! We were really happy to use our good pal James Watkins as our guinea pig…. thanks Jimmy boy!

Char Siew Ribs, (pronounced Cha-Siew, drop the R sound) is a staple here in the tropical paradise we love to call home, Singapore. I adapted Meathead Goldwyn’s Amazing Ribs recipe to test out the authenticity and flavour profile of one of my favourite foods. I was amazed on both fronts! The great thing is that you can also make these ribs indoors in an oven if you don’t have the ability to grill outside.

In Singapore, you’ll see Char Siew hanging in most hawker stall windows. They tend to use the pork collar instead of ribs. The collars are loaded with fatty tissue that melts when slowly roasted. The flavour is intoxicating and you’ll line up for more! You can get a plate full of this delicious pork with steamed rice and veggies or my favourite, won ton noodles and broth with a healthy dollop of chili sauce. Needless to say, if you’ve ever been through Singapore, this is a dish you’ve got to try. My local hawker centre sells the above mentioned for $3.50 (SGD) or $2.60 (USD), a bargain if you’re on a budget!

So the ingredients list for the marinade goes a bit like this:

  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup vodka (or rum or brandy or even red wine)
  • 1/4 cup quality honey
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons powdered ginger
  • 2 tablespoons powdered onion
  • 1 tablespoon powdered garlic
  • 1 tablespoon five spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon red food colouring

Mix all of the above in a metal bowl (as you may run the risk of staining a plastic bowl with that red food colouring) and set it aside. Let it sit for about an hour in the fridge and when you’re ready to pour it over the ribs, give it a good whisk!

I used three racks of baby back ribs and cut them into individual ribs. Not something I normally do but for this recipe, you want each rib to be fully coated with that lovely marinade! When ready, place your ribs into a heavy duty zip-top bag, add the marinade and give the bag a good massage, trying to get as much air out of it as possible.  Be mindful not to puncture the bag with the bone ends and so just to be careful, place your bag into a bowl that can catch any of the marinade should it escape. I marinated these ribs for roughly 30 hours, occasionally turning the bag and giving it a bit of a squeeze as and when I was in the fridge.

Like I said, you can do these ribs indoors but since this is a blog about the Big Green Asian Egg, there was no way I was going to use the thing we call an oven. That’s where pavlovas are made!

Set up your grill for 2-zone or indirect cooking, easily achieved with a BGE plate setter. Don’t add any wood chips as you want to minimise the smoke here. Stabilise your temperature at 225F (1017C) and hold it there using an ambient temperature probe. For these ribs, you’ll be cooking to time and not temperature so it’s really important you keep your ambient temperature just right. I also set up a multi-tiered grid that sat over a drip pan full of hot water. The grid was amazing for this set up and highly recommended to produce a high yield of rib goodness!

Place the ribs meat side up and make sure you space them out, not touching each other. Close the dome and set your watch for 2 hours. Once there, have a quick peek, spin the grid to ensure even cooking and have a good look at the ribs. They should look like they’ve got a nice char starting to form and they’ll sweat a bit, showing you how juicy and moist they are. At 2.5 hours, remove the ribs and place them into a big metal bowl. Grab about a 1/3 cup of quality honey, zap it in the nuker for about 30 seconds then coat the ribs. Toss the bowl around, ensuring you’ve coated all the ribs. This provides a wonderful glaze and an eye popping flavour that gives these ribs and almost  bak kwa taste! (Bak Kwa is by far the BEST pork dish ever… dare I say even an improvement on bacon!!!!)

Place the ribs back on the grid and roast them for another 15 minutes or so. These baby back ribs were pretty thin so I adjusted the roasting time from 3 hours in total to 2.45. When finally done, place the sticky ribs back in the big metal bowl, sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds (and please do toast them as you’ll release all the wonderful sesame flavour by doing this…just be careful not to burn them as that’s fairly easily done) and finely chopped green onion or chives. Toss the bowl around and get ready to serve.

Our ribs were served with a wonderful soba noodle salad with a sesame and ginger dressing. A bit of Cantonese meets Japanese fusion to be honest. The result was AMAZING!  Thanks Meathead and team at Amazing Ribs for the inspiration!

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Overall Heather Rating: 10/10

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2 thoughts on “Char Siew (Ribs) – 叉燒”

  1. Hello friends, and thank you for this post. I am trying this recipe with some changes, and I am eager to see how it works.

  2. I made this recipe this weekend on my kamado with some rib tips I had left over after having the butcher cut my pork ribs St Louis style. Other than excluding the red food coloring I followed every detail and it came out amazing. This has all of the flavor of the char siu pork dangling in the windows of restaurants down in Chinatown, plus more. The only thing I’m tempted to tinker with is maybe adding some more heat at the stage where you toss the meat in pure honey before the final few minutes on the grill (a bit of chili oil, perhaps), but these were great as they were.

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