These Japanese style pork ribs are a mouthful:
tender, sweet, salty, spicy, and sour.
The surprise is that they are not grilled (yakimono), but simmered on stovetop!
Nimono (simmered) dishes are an essential part of Japanese cooking. Meat, fish, or vegetables are simmered in a flavorful liquid (usually dashi) containing one or more of the basic flavors:
Sa Shi Su Se So
(satoh=sugar, shio=salt, su=vinegar, shoyu=soy sauce, miso=fermented soy bean paste).
Almost like music: do ray me fa so la te do
My mother had to be economical in the kitchen. She always baked country style ribs with a ketchup-molasses sauce—big juicy meaty and impossible to eat with your fingers. I always wondered how pigs could have such oddly shaped ribs!
As a newly-wed on a short budget, I learned how to cook and even to work wonders in the kitchen. At the meat counter, I’d look over the slabs of ribs, noting the bone to meat ratio and how much less expensive the country style ribs were.
On occasion we’d be invited out to eat ribs, a restaurant or someone’s house. The only way I saw ribs cooked was grilled, and I always found them tough, dry, and messy.
In the past couple of years, I have worked my way through The Japanese Kitchen by Hiroko Shimbo. When I was first confronted with her recipe for spareribs braised with Japanese flavors I bought ‘real’ spareribs. (The first time I make a recipe I try to make it exactly as it is written.)
At last I found spareribs I enjoyed and I’ve posted about it 1 and 2.
The other day, I was very lucky to find baby back ribs on sale! Crazy good Japanese-style braised baby back ribs smell so wonderful as they cook that you should keep a tissue with you. To wipe off the drool while you wait.
Japanese-Style Braised Spareribs
Supearibu no Nikomi
The Japanese Kitchen
•250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit•
by Hiroko Shimbo
Marinate and Brown:
- 1 ½ pounds pork spareribs, cut into individual ribs
- 1 Tablespoon shoyu
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon toban jiang (Japanese chile-bean sauce)
- 1 ½ Tablespoons honey
- vegetable oil for browning the ribs
Marinate the ribs for 30 to 60 minutes. Remove ribs from marinade (discard the sauce). Heat a skillet, and add oil. Over medium heat, brown all sides of the ribs.
- ¼ cup saké
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- ½ cup water
Combine the above in a large pot, and add the browned ribs. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, covered, over low heat for 30 minutes. An otoshi-buta is a wooden lid made of cypress which floats on simmering liquid. It keeps the solid food pushed below the broth, and it prevents the liquid for boiling away too quickly.
- 2 Tablespoons Shoyu
- 3 Tablespoons komezu (rice vinegar)
Add the above ingredients and cook, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes. Turn or baste the ribs several times. When the meat is tender, you can let the ribs cool in the sauce and refrigerate to finish later in the day. If you hold the ribs for later, warm them gently in the sauce.
- 10 ounces chrysanthemum or spinach in a bunch with stems aligned
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
In a medium pot of salted boiling water with the sesame oil added, cook the stem end of the greens for 1 minute, then immerse the leaves for 1 minute. Drain and cool under cold running water.
I’m probably not the only one who doesn’t know the finer details of pork ribs, so here is a compilation of things I found online:
My mom’s country-style ribs are not true ribs: they are cut from the shoulder. They are lean and meaty, though I remember them having some “juiciness” from fat—note that pigs have been changed in the past 30 years and when I was growing up pork always had fat, no matter what the cut.
Spareribs are large and come from the part of ribs that curve around toward the belly. If one were to cut the whole rib cage away, remove the spine, the the spareribs would be the end part away from the back. They have a good amount of fat and flavor, and cost more than country-style but less than back ribs. There is a cut of ribs called St. Louis Style: the tips of the ribs are removed. I’ve never seen them but apparently they are sold in some places.
Back ribs, baby back ribs, or loin ribs come from the part of the rib cage nearest the backbones. They are shorter and more tender than spareribs, and because they are so popular, they are expensive. (baby back ribs may refer to only ribs of young hogs)
Tons of info about cooking great tender ribs on your grill, and a great diagram about ribs that finally explained things to me: