When I was a kid, no visit to a Chinese restaurant was complete without an order of those sweet, greasy and radioactive red spare ribs. They came in that foil-lined bag that barely kept them warm until my dad got us home to devour them along with the other classics: fried dumplings, and won ton soup with fried won tons on the side. I still see those ribs on menus even today, and despite my cravings, I just don’t eat fire-engine-red-dyed food anymore.
Imagine my excitement when I saw a recipe for those classic spare ribs in a food magazine. I figured I’d just make them without the food coloring. It totally worked.
I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe exactly as written, and this was no exception. For one thing, it called for dry sherry. I didn’t have it so, I used dry marsala wine. I didn’t even have the pork ribs, so I substituted a beautiful slab of grass-fed beef flap. It was awesome.
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons dry marsala wine
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or through a press
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
2 lbs. beef flap (skirt steak or hanger steak works, too)
To make the marinade, combine the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, madeira, garlic, sugar and Chinese five spice in a bowl. Mix well.
Trim the excess fat and silver skin off the beef flap, and if it’s thick, slice it lengthwise to make a thinner piece of meat about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick.
Place the meat in the marinade, making sure it gets well coated on all sides. Marinate the meat at room temperature for about 30 minutes. If you have a thicker cut of meat, you can marinate it longer.
Drain and discard the marinade.
Heat a cast iron pan and add a little lard or oil. Place the beef flap pieces in the pan, searing well on one side before flipping over to the other. If the meat is thin, you can cook it to a medium-rare right there on the stove top. You might need to finish the beef in a 350-degree oven if you’re using a thicker cut.
To make the Chinese ribs with this marinade: simply place the ribs and the marinade in a Ziploc bag at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and place the ribs on a baking sheet with a wire rack on top. Save the marinade…and baste the ribs with it every 30 minutes, turning the ribs over as you do so. Cook until the ribs are done, about 2 hours.