Chinese steamed pork ribs with fermented black beans is quick and easy to make and big on flavour – this no longer has to be a dim sum only dish! 🙂
When anyone talks about ribs, I bet the word ‘steaming’ never comes up. Ribs are usually grilled, baked, smoked, deep fried – you get the gist. However, if you ever had dim sum, you’ll know steamed meats are very common and om nom nom delicious.
I actually had this a lot growing up, whenever dad worked late nights at the restaurant (which was quite frequent) it meant mom was cooking. This usually meant it would be either Popeye’s Fried Chicken takeout or steamed spare ribs with black bean sauce for dinner, every-single-time, really.
I was a terrible kid, I would often complain and I wondered if that was the only thing my mom knew how to cook but now as a adult I realized that if that is indeed the only thing she knew how to cook – she’s probably a pro at it and made this dish a thousand times which meant she knew what she was doing.
One of the greatest things about this dish is that it’s quick and easy to make and it’s big on flavours. If you don’t have a steamer it’s not really a big deal either because you can put together a makeshift one on the fly in seconds.
Most of these ingredients can be found at a local grocery store with the exception of maybe sesame oil and fermented black beans.
Sesame oil and fermented black beans are available at Asian grocery stores or online.
For this dish, we use side ribs (aka spare ribs). If you can, ask your butcher to cut them length wise across the ribs into 1 inch strips. Then when you get home you cut these up into small 1 inch bite sized pieces. This makes it easier to eat and quicker to cook.
Fermented black beans are dried salty black beans that have been fermented in salt and ginger. They are quite strong and salty so a little goes a long long way. I like to give them quick rinse to remove any excess salt – the bonus is it reconstitutes this a bit as well.
Maple syrup? What kind of shenanigans is going on here, this is not a traditional Chinese ingredient! I like to use maple syrup and honey in place of sugar when I cook. I find the sweetness is milder and it works more evenly than sugar crystals. You can use sugar in its place but put in half the amount.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
So what if you don’t have a steamer? Now what? Honestly, it’s not a big deal, we can make one! Here are a few other options you can use to steam foods at home:
BAMBOO STEAMER – You will only need a pan or wok for this, preferably curved at the bottom so you can put water on the bottom without touching the bottom of the steamers. No pot lid required, the steamer has a lid. Because I am paranoid, I would recommend running the bamboo under water for a few seconds to give it a bit of moisture so it doesn’t catch on fire.
METAL DOOHICKEYS – If you don’t have a bamboo steamer you might have one of these metal doohickeys? You can usually find these in an Asian kitchen store or sometimes a grocery store. They just sit in a pot with a bit of water on the bottom while the plate of food is placed on top of it. You will need a pot with a lid for this to work.
MAKESHIFT CHOPSTICK STEAMER – Don’t have any of those things? Let’s make one! You will need a pan or wok with a curved bottom and a pair of wooden chopsticks criss-crossed along the bottom. Add enough water to fill the bottom but not touch the chopsticks, then rest the plate of food on top of the chopsticks. You will need to be careful when resting the plate on this as it might be slightly wobbly. You will need a lid for this method.
Marination – There’s Actually a Order to It! 🙂
If you’re lazy like me or you’re in a “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That” mood, you can throw all the ingredients together and marinate the meat for 15 minutes and away we go! There’s nothing wrong with that.
However, if you want to maximize your flavours, I strongly believe you should marinate the meat with just the salty sauces first and mix in the corn starch at the very end right before it goes into the steamer. This prevents the corn starch from being a barrier during the marination and absorption stage because the meats have direct contact with the salt and water to do a mini brine – so to speak.
If you’re wondering why I add a bit of water to the marinade, it’s because during the marination process, the water helps with the mini-brining process and the meat will actually absorb some of the water!
When you are ready to put the meat into the steamer, mix in the corn starch evenly over the meat and place it in a dish and then give it a drizzle of 1 tablespoon of oil and you’re good to go.
Key to Non-Rubbery Meat – Don’t Overcook It
It is very easy to overcook this, and when I tell you how long I cook mine I’m sure you’re going to freak out but hear me out before you do! 😛
A steamer can get really hot, you will be putting the meat into the steamer only when the steamer has had a chance to build up the heat and steam. Since we will be cutting the meat up into small pieces (for maximum steaming surface area) and spreading out the meat on your dish into a single layer, it will ensure a more even cooking process 🙂 Do not pile it up into a mountain, or else the centre of your mountain will not get cooked. 😛
When you overcook the spare ribs you lose some of the flavourful meat juices – this stuff is gold and it will just ooze right out and what you will be left with is tough, rubbery pieces of meat sitting in its meat juices. (Don’t get me wrong, the meat juices are fantastic as sauce on rice! but you want to keep most of it in the meat. 🙂 )
I cut my meat into pretty big chunks and 9 minutes was enough to cook them all the way through. So I recommend it be steamed between 8 to 10 minutes only. No more than 10 minutes unless your stove settings are very low – then maybe add 1-2 more min. You know your stove best. 🙂
Let’s steam ALL THE FOODZ! 😀
Chinese steamed pork ribs with fermented black beans is quick and easy to make and big on flavour – this no longer has to be a dim sum only dish!
- 1 1/2 lbs pork side ribs (spare ribs)
- 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil [optional]
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fermented black beans
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dark soy [optional]
- 2-3 cloves garlic (minced very finely)
- 1 tablespoon oil (to drizzle right before steaming)
- 1 stalk green onion (finely chopped)
- 1-2 birdseye chili (finely sliced) [optional]
- toasted sesame seeds [optional]
Marinate the Pork
- Cut the pork into 1 inch bite sized pieces and place it in a bowl
- Rinse the fermented black beans (Optional)
- On a cutting board, use the sides of your knife to smush the fermented black beans gently to break their skins. Add it to the bowl
- Finely chop up the garlic and add it to the bowl (make sure you mince this really finely so they can cook quicker during the short steaming process)
- Add maple syrup, soy sauce, dark soy, sesame oil and water to the bowl and mix the marinade well with the pork. Set it aside to marinate for 15-20 minutes in room temperature.
Steaming the Pork
- Using a wok or high walled pan set the bamboo steamer/metal doohickey/criss-crossed wooden chopsticks to the bottom of the pan or wok
- Add in water til it reaches just below the bottom of the steamer/metal doohickey/criss-crossed wooden chopsticks. You don’t want the water to touch the bottom of your plate during the steaming process.
- Set the stove to medium-high to high heat, cover your wok or pan with a lid (unless you are using a bamboo steamer – use the bamboo lid instead) and wait approximately 10 minutes for it to get hot and for the steam to build up in the pan.
- Mix in the corn starch into the meat and mix well
- Place the meat on a plate or shallow bowl and try to layer it into a single layer
- Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil on top and put it in the steamer when it is hot
- Steam for 8-10 minutes
- Once cooked, remove from steamer and add garnishes and serve hot with rice! 🙂
- You can substitute sugar in place of the maple syrup if you don’t have maple syrup or honey. Cut the amount by half if you are using sugar
- Ask your butcher to cut the side ribs into 1 inch strips length wise. You can chop the ribs up into smaller bite sized pieces at home.
- If you don’t have a steamer, you can create a makeshift one with a pair of chopsticks set on the bottom of the wok criss-crossed. You will need a lid for the pan for this method
- We add water to the marinade to create a mini brine for the marination. The pork will absorb this water.
- If you are using bamboo steamers, quickly run them under water to give them a bit of a soak before steaming
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