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!
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Most of us are familiar with Chinese steamed spare ribs with black bean sauce because it is a very popular dish at dim sum. Still, it's not limited to just dim sum, and it is a common homemade dish that most Chinese families enjoy at home too!
One of the greatest things about steamed Chinese steamed spare ribs is that they're quick and easy to make and big on flavors. If you love savory steamed meat dishes with a lot of garlic and saltiness, 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 a big deal either because you can put together a makeshift one on the fly in seconds.
If you're looking for another really easy Chinese dish to serve alongside these steamed pork ribs, I highly recommend trying my Chinese ketchup shrimp stir fry, and Scrambled Eggs and Shrimp recipe as well!
Ingredients for Chinese Steamed Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce
- Spare Ribs - For this steamed pork rib recipe, we use side ribs (aka spare ribs). Ask your butcher to cut them lengthwise across the ribs into 1-inch strips if you can. 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 fermented in salt and ginger. They are potent and salty, so a little goes a long way. I like to give them a quick rinse to remove any excess salt - the bonus is it also reconstitutes this a bit. You can find these at any Asian supermarket or online on Amazon.
- Oyster Sauce - This will add some salt and a lot of umami to this dish.
- Garlic and Sesame Oil - This duo gives this steamed spare rib dish a lot of flavors, do not omit them.
- Soy Sauce - If you cannot find dark soy sauce, substitute it with regular soy sauce. It only adds a browner color to the final dish. Do not substitute the regular soy sauce (aka light soy sauce), it gives this dish its savoriness and umami flavor.
- Potato Starch/Corn Starch - I mix potato starch into the marinade right before I steam the spare ribs to thicken the sauce. The starch also allows the sauce to coat the spare ribs better to give them more flavor and a great mouthfeel. If you want a more velvety and silky dish, use potato starch instead of cornstarch.
Joyce's Tips & Tricks for the Best Steamed Pork Ribs
- Whenever I buy full slabs of side ribs from the grocery store for grilling, I like to cut off the very end of it (the part of the ribs that has nothing but the soft white bones) and put them aside to freeze so that I can use them on another day to steam them with black bean sauce. This way, I get to save the ribs with the whole-length bones for grilling and use the thin ends with the soft bones for steaming since the ends are less fattier and tend to dry out on the grill anyways.
- Always rinse your fermented black beans before you use it, it removes some of the excess salt, and it also re-hydrates them.
- To get a more silky and velvety sauce, use potato starch instead of cornstarch.
- Since we are only steaming this for 12-13 minutes, do not pile the pork into a mountain, because the center of your dish will not get cooked. Spread the spare ribs into a single layer onto a plate or bowl with a lip to keep the sauce in. The single layer will help them cook more evenly and quickly for a juicier rib.
- To get juicy and tender steamed spare ribs, you shouldn't overcook them. Overcooking the spare ribs will cook out all the juices, and it will make them tough and rubbery. I like to steam them for about 12-13 minutes only.
- To take your black bean spare ribs to the next level, place thin slices of taro or pumpkin on the bottom of the plate before you add the marinated pork ribs. The bonus is that the sauce gets absorbed into the taro and pumpkin, making it taste amazing. Make sure you slice them very thinly though so that they can cook all the way through within 12-13 minutes.
- When you are chopping the side ribs into smaller pieces, make sure you use a thick wooden or plastic cutting board, especially if you plan to use a cleaver to cut through the thicker bones. If you use thin Epicurean cutting boards like I do, you will dent and damage the board with a cleaver.
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 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 marinate the meat first before mixing in the potato starch.
If you add the starch too early during the marination step, it will create a barrier that prevents the pork from absorbing the marinade.
To make the homemade black bean sauce, combine the reconstituted fermented black beans, soy sauce, garlic, water, oyster sauce, cooking wine, salt, sugar, and sesame oil and mix it with the spare ribs in a large bowl and marinate it for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes of marinating, add in the potato starch and mix well. You want the marinade and potato starch slurry to coat every piece of meat.
When you are ready to put the Chinese spare ribs into the steamer, place them onto a plate and ensure they are all in a single layer, which will help them cook evenly and more quickly. Then drizzle one 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.
It's also very important not to overcook this dish. When you overcook the spare ribs you lose some of the flavorful 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 large 1-inch chunks, and 12 minutes was enough to cook them all the way through. So I recommend it be steamed between 12-13 minutes only, if you're worried they are not cooked all the way through, cook it for a few more minutes but no more than 15 minutes.
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
- Chinese Scrambled Eggs and Shrimp
- Yeung Chow Fried Rice
- Chicken Fried Rice
If the ribs are cut into 1-inch bite-sized pieces, it should take about 12 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.
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Chinese Steamed Spare Ribs with Black Beans
Joyce's Recipe Notes
- It's important not to overcook this dish. When you overcook the spare ribs you lose the flavorful meat juices and the spare ribs will turn out tough and rubbery. I cut my meat into big 1-inch chunks and 12 minutes was enough to cook them all the way through. So I recommend steaming the ribs between 12 to 13 minutes only, if you want to cook them longer, make sure it is no more than 15 minutes.
- 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
- If you are using bamboo steamers, quickly run them under running water to give them a bit of a soak before steaming
- For a silkier and more velvety spare rib, use potato starch instead of cornstarch.
- 1½ lbs pork side ribs (spare ribs)
Spare Rib Black Bean Sauce Marinade
- 1½ tablespoons fermented black beans (rinsed)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced very finely, approx. 1 tablespoon)
- ½ teaspoon oyster sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoon soy sauce (low sodium)
- ½ teaspoon dark soy (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine ( or rice cooking wine or dry sherry)
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
Add After You Marinate the Ribs, Right Before Steaming
- 2 teaspoons potato starch (or cornstarch, use half the amount if you like a runnier sauce)
- 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 large bowl
- Rinse 1½ tablespoons 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 and add them into the bowl with the pork ribs.**I like to keep them whole but crushed, but you can also roughly chop them as well.**
- Finely mince 2 cloves garlic and add it into the bowl with the pork ribs.
- Once it has marinated for 15-20 minutes, add 2 teaspoons potato starch into the bowl of pork ribs and mix well with the marinade to form a slurry to coat all the meat. **I like a thicker sauce, but if you prefer a thinner and runnier sauce, then add 1½ teaspoon of starch instead.**
- 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 12-13 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*
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