Spicy Spareribs

Fragrant with spices, this authentic Chinese dish makes a great if slightly messy starter to an informal meal.


serves 4
675 - 900 g (1 1/2 - 2 lb) meaty pork spareribs
5 ml (1 tsp) Szechuan peppercorns
30 ml (2 tbsp) coarse sea salt
2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) Chinese five-spice powder
25 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) cornflour
groundnut oil, for deep-frying
coriander sprigs, to garnish

for the marinade

30 ml (2 tbsp) light soy sauce
5 ml (1 tsp) caster sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
ground black pepper


1. Using a sharp, heavy cleaver, chop the spareribs into pieces about 5 cm (2 in) long, or ask your butcher to do this for you. Place them in a shallow dish and set aside.

2. Heat a wok to medium heat. Add the Szechuan peppercorns and salt and dry-fry for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture colours slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the five-spice powder. Set aside to cool.

3. Grind the cooled spice mixture in a mortar with a pestle to a fine powder.

4. Sprinkle 5 ml (1 tsp) of the spice powder over the spareribs and rub in well with your hands. Add all the marinade ingredients and toss the ribs to coat thoroughly. Cover and leave in the refrigerator to marinate for about 2 hours, turning occasionally.

5. Pour off any excess marinade from the spareribs. Sprinkle the ribs with the cornflour and mix to coat evenly.

6. Half-fill a wok with oil and heat to 180°C/350°F. Deep-fry the spareribs in batches for 3 minutes until golden. Remove and set aside. When all the batches have been cooked, reheat the oil to 180°C (350°F) and deep-fry the ribs for a second time for 1 - 2 minutes, until crisp and thoroughly cooked. Drain on kitchen paper. Transfer the ribs to a warm serving platter and sprinkle over 5 - 7.5 ml ( 1 - 1/2 tsp) of the remaining spice powder. Garnish with coriander sprigs and serve immediately.

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