Introduction: Super Sassy Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs

This tutorial will teach you how to make sweet and sour pork ribs.  This dish features several flavors and has an inviting color, appearance and texture.  The sugar in this dish not only gives the meat a sweet taste, blended with the tastes of vinegar and other spices, but also gives it a brown color.  Another important condiment in this dish is vinegar.  Vinegar not only provides its special flavor; when combined with wine, it will also take away the foul taste of the raw meat.  It does this by Fischer esterification, which is the reaction of an alcohol and a carboxylic acid, making the amines in the meat evaporate.

The most difficult part of the cooking process is the melting of sugar.  The key in that is achieving appropriate timing and temperature.  Overheating will cause a bitter taste and black color, but not using enough heat will not bring out the brown color; this will leave an excess of uncaramelized sugar in the final dish, which will be sticky and have an overly sweet taste as a result.

The cost of the ingredients is about $6.00, and the whole preparation takes less than an hour.

Caution:  be careful of the hot stove, and be careful not to be scalded by oil splatter.

Step 1: Ingredients

You will need the following ingredients:

• A pound and a half of pork ribs.  Ask the store to cut them into 1½-inch pieces across the bone for you.
• A clove of garlic
• About 4 slices of ginger root
• About 2 stalks of green onions
• Black peppercorns
• ⅕ cup sugar
• Olive oil
• A spoonful of wine
• ¼ cup Chinkiang vinegar (a black rice vinegar ubiquitous at Asian food stores)
• A spoonful of salt

Step 2: Chopping

Chop up the garlic, ginger and most of the green onions; set them aside.  Also separately mince the rest of the green onions for garnishing at the end.

Chop the ribs into pieces (separate them) as shown above.

Step 3: Boiling the Ribs

Before the frying process, we will briefly boil the ribs in water with sliced ginger and black peppercorns.  The purpose of this step is to remove unpleasant flavors from the meat.

Half-fill your pot with water, bring it to a boil and put in some sliced ginger and black peppercorns.  When you dump the ribs in, the water will temporarily stop boiling; leave it until the water boils again, then shut off the heat.  Don't boil too long, or the ribs' flavor will be lost.  Leave the ribs in the hot water while you prepare the next step.

Step 4: Caramelizing Sugar

We will partially caramelize the sugar to add both flavor and color to the final product.  Put oil and sugar in the bottom of a pan.  Stir stir stir!  Heat on medium-high with vigilant stirring until the sugar caramelizes.

Note:  It is easy to heat the sugar too much so that it decomposes to carbon; do not do that.  You want the sugar to become a reddish-brown liquid.

Step 5: Frying

Take the meat out of the water and put it in the caramelized sugar; mix well.  Even if the sugar is clumpy at first, do not fear; the clumps will disappear during the cooking process.  Add the chopped garlic, ginger and green onions, and mix.

Let the food cook for one minute, then add the spoon of wine and the spoon of salt.  Mix.

Let the food cook for another minute, then add the vinegar.  Mix.

Let the food cook another minute, then add a quarter cup of water.

Step 6: Steaming

Turn the heat to medium-low and cover the pan.  Cook for 20 to 30 minutes with the pan covered.  The stove should be hot enough to keep the water at a gentle boil, not hot enough to quickly boil it all off.

Step 7: Reducing

Take the cover off and boil off the remaining water.  Taste; if the dish is not vinegary enough, add more vinegar.

Step 8: Finished

Sprinkle on minced green onions for color, mix and serve.

Good job.  You just made your first batch of sweet and sour pork ribs!