A quick and easy steamed spare ribs recipe with garlic and homemade black bean sauce that is big on flavor - this no longer has to be a dim sum only dish!
Table of Contents
Most of us are most familiar with Chinese steamed spare ribs with black bean sauce because it is a very popular dish to have at dim sum, but it's definitely not limited to just dim sum and it is actually a very common homemade dish that most Chinese families enjoy at home as well!
One of the greatest things about steamed Chinese spare ribs is that it's quick and easy to make and it's big on flavors. If you love savory steamed meat dishes with a lot of garlic and saltiness, then this one is for you.
Steamed Chinese spare ribs are also meant to be a very simple dish served with steamed white rice so you can easily make this on a busy weekday and have dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes.
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.
This recipe is something that my mom has passed on to me, so I hope everyone enjoys it!
If you're looking for another really easy Chinese dish to serve alongside these steamed pork ribs, I highly recommend trying Chinese ketchup shrimp stir fry as well!
Ingredients for Chinese Steamed Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce
- Spare Ribs - For this recipe, we use side ribs (aka spare ribs). If you can, ask your butcher to cut them lengthwise 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 a quick rinse to remove any excess salt - the bonus is it reconstitutes this a bit as well. You can find these at any Chinese grocery store or online on Amazon.
- Maple syrup - I like to use maple syrup and honey in place of sugar when I cook because I find the sweetness is milder and mixes more evenly into marinades. You can use sugar in its place but do not do a 1:1 substitute, add half the amount of sugar instead.
- Garlic and Sesame Oil - This duo gives this steamed spare rib dish a lot of flavor, do not omit them.
- Soy Sauce - If you cannot find dark soy sauce, you can substitute it with regular soy sauce. It only adds a browner color to the final dish. Definitely do not substitute the regular soy sauce out, it gives this dish its savoriness and umami flavor.
- Corn Starch - I mix corn starch into the marinade right before I steam the spare ribs so that it thickens the sauce. The cornstarch also creates allows the sauce to coat the spare ribs better to give them more flavor and gives it a great mouthfeel as well.
3 Ways to Make a Steamer at Home to Steam Food
If you are using a bamboo steamer, you will only need a large pot or wok to steam your food. If you are using a large pot, make sure it is curved at the bottom so you can put water on the bottom without touching the bottom of the steamers.
No pot lid is required, the steamer should already come with a lid. Because I am paranoid, I recommend running the bamboo underwater for a few seconds to give it a bit of moisture before you start steaming so it doesn't catch on fire.
If you don't have a bamboo steamer you might have one of these metal trivets.
You can usually find these in an Asian kitchen store or sometimes a grocery store. They sit on the bottom of a pot or wok 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 and you will need to make sure you don't fill the water past the trivet so that the plate isn't sitting in the water.
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 crisscrossed 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.
How to Take Your Steamed Pork Ribs to the Next Level
- Before you lay down the marinated pork ribs, you can place chopped pumpkin or taro on the bottom of the plate to give the final steamed dish some extra flavor. The bonus is the sauce gets absorbed right into the taro and pumpkin which makes it taste amazing. Keep in mind that you will need to steam it for longer if you do use pumpkin or taro on the bottom, which may overcook your spare ribs.
How to Make Chinese Steamed Pork Ribs
Step 1: Cut the Pork Ribs into Bite-Sized Pieces.
Step 2: Marinate Them
To make the spare ribs more moist, tender, and juicy, I like to marinate the meat first before I mix in the cornstarch. The marinate is basically a mini brine, which allows the pork to absorb some of the water and keeps them plump and juicier.
If you add the corn starch too early during the marination step, the corn starch creates a barrier that prevents the pork from benefitting from the brine from the marinade.
To make the homemade black bean sauce, combine the reconstituted fermented black beans, soy sauce, garlic, water, sugar, and sesame oil together and mix it together with the spare ribs in a large bowl and marinate it for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes of marinating, add in the cornstarch and mix well. You want the marinade and cornstarch slurry to coat every single piece of meat.
When you are ready to put the Chinese spare ribs into the steamer, mix in the cornstarch 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.
Step 3: Steam the Spare Ribs
Wait until the steamer has a chance to build up heat and steam before you add the meat to the steamer.
You want to make sure the water is doing a full boil and the pot is really hot since we don't cook it for very long.
When you are plating it, it's important to spread out the pork ribs on your dish into a single layer which will ensure a more even cooking process.
Do not pile the pork up into a mountain, or else the center of your mountain will not get cooked.
It's also very important not to overcook this dish. When you overcook the spare ribs you lose some of the flavourful meat juices - it will be cooked right out of the meat and what you will be left with is tough, rubbery pieces of meat sitting in a lot of meat juices. Don't get me wrong, the meat juices are fantastic as a sauce on rice but you want juicy meat as well.
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.
More Chinese Recipes You May Like
- Wonton Noodle Soup
- Tomato and Egg Stir Fry
- Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji)
- Crispy Cantonese Beef Chow Mein
- Saucy Beef Ho Fun Noodles with Gravy
- Beef Chow Fun
If the ribs are cut into 1-inch bite-sized pieces, it should take about 10 minutes to steam ribs if you are steaming them on high heat in a steamer.
Overcooking the steamed ribs will make them rubbery and tough.
Yes, you definitely can steam ribs in a steamer. A steamer will keep the ribs moist and juicy and they will cook very quickly if you cut them into small bite-size pieces.
If you like my recipes and tutorials and want to be updated on when new ones come out, please consider subscribing to my newsletter (we don't spam) and follow along on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for all of my latest recipes!
Chinese Steamed Spare Ribs with Black Beans
- It's important not to overcook this dish. When you overcook the spare ribs you lose some of the flavourful meat juices - it will be cooked right out of the meat and what you will be left with is tough, rubbery pieces of meat sitting in a lot of meat juices. I cut my meat into big 1-inch 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.
- I like to use maple syrup and honey in place of sugar when I cook because I find the sweetness is milder and mixes more evenly into marinades. You can use sugar in its place but do not do a 1:1 substitute, add half the amount of sugar instead.
- 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 wooden chopsticks set on the bottom of the wok crisscrossed. 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. Don't worry the pork will absorb this water.
- If you are using bamboo steamers, quickly run them under running water to give them a bit of a soak before steaming
- 1 ½ lbs pork side ribs (spare ribs)
Spare Rib Black Bean Sauce Marinade
- ½ teaspoon dark soy (optional)
- ½ tablespoon maple syrup (or 1 teaspoon of sugar)
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
- 1 ½ tablespoons fermented black beans
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 ½ tablespoon soy sauce
- 2-3 cloves garlic (minced very finely)
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 tablespoon oil (to drizzle right before steaming)
Marinate the Spare Ribs
- Cut the pork into 1 inch bite-sized pieces and place it in a bowl
- Rinse the fermented black beans in a bowl of water for a few seconds to reconstitute them.
- Drain the fermented black beans and place them on a cutting board. Use the sides of your knife or the back of a spoon to smush the fermented black beans gently to break their skins and flatten them. Add them into the bowl with the pork ribs.
- Finely mince the garlic and add it into the bowl with the pork ribs
- Add maple syrup (or sugar), soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, and water to the bowl and mix the marinade well with the pork. Set it aside to marinate for 15-20 minutes at room temperature.
- Once it has marinated for 15-20 minutes, add the cornstarch into the bowl or pork ribs and mix well with the marinade to form a slurry to coat all the meat. (If there is not enough marinade to create a slurry, add 1 tablespoon of water to the meat and mix well until the meat is well coated with the marinade slurry, there shouldn't be any dry clumps of cornstarch.)
- Place the spare rib into a shallow bowl or a plate with a high lip and spread it out into a single layer, so that the meat can cook evenly.
- Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil on top of the meat evenly.
Steaming the Pork
- Using a wok or high-walled large pot set the bamboo steamer, metal trivet, or crisscrossed wooden chopsticks to the bottom of the pan or wok.
- Add in water til it reaches just below the bottom of the bamboo steamer, metal trivet, or crisscrossed wooden chopsticks. You don't want the water to touch the bottom of your plate during the steaming process.
- Set the stove 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.
- Gently place the plate of spare rib into the pan and cover it with a lid. (If you are using a bamboo steamer, use the bamboo lid instead)
- Steam for 8-10 minutes (If you cut your pork ribs larger than 1 inch, you may need to steam it for an additional 1-2 minutes.)
- Once cooked, remove from steamer and add garnishes and serve hot with white rice! 🙂
*Nutritional information is calculated using online tools and is an estimate*
Disclaimer: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you - these earnings help keep this blog running.