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Naxi pork ribs with chillies and cumin (Naxi pai gu)

"This is inspired by the delectable spare ribs I had at the In and Out Yunnan Restaurant in Beijing's Chaoyang District a year ago," says Tony Tan. "The ribs are marinated in a fragrant rub of Yunnanese herbs and spices, including a kind of citrusy leaf, cooked in a master stock till tender, chilled, then deep-fried or grilled. They're topped with chillies and a host of fragrant spices which results in an unbelievably delicious dish. The following recipe is my take on this memorable dish."

You'll need

1 kg meaty pork spare ribs 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine 1 tsp ground fennel 1 tsp ground Sichuan pepper 1 tsp caster sugar For deep-frying: vegetable oil   Master stock 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns 1 tbsp fennel seeds 1 tsp cloves 60 ml Shaoxing wine 5 spring onions, coarsely chopped 2-3 cassia or cinnamon quills 2 star anise 4 black cardamom pods, crushed (see note) 2 tbsp light soy sauce 2 kaffir lime leaves (optional) 5 pieces dried sand ginger (optional; see note)   Spiced vinegar sauce 1 tbsp vegetable oil 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1 tbsp finely shredded ginger 1 tbsp green Sichuan peppercorns 10 pickled green birdseye chillies, or to taste, chopped (see note) 5-8 dried long red chillies, finely chopped 1 tsp fennel seeds, coarsely crushed 1 tsp cumin seeds, coarsely crushed 1 tsp Chinkiang vinegar


  • 01
  • Combine ribs, Shaoxing, spices and sugar in a bowl, rub to coat well, cover and refrigerate to marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  • 02
  • For master stock, tie Sichuan peppercorns, fennel seeds and cloves in a piece of muslin, then combine with remaining ingredients in a stock pot. Add ribs and enough water to just cover, bring to the boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until ribs are very tender (1½-2 hours). Remove ribs, drain well, cool master stock and ribs separately, then refrigerate ribs until chilled and reserve master stock separately.
  • 03
  • Heat oil in a wok to 180C and deep-fry ribs in batches until golden (2-4 minutes; be careful, hot oil will spit). Drain on absorbent paper, transfer to a platter and keep warm.
  • 04
  • For spiced vinegar sauce, heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add garlic and fry until just golden (20-30 seconds). Add remaining ingredients and 125ml master stock (reserve remainder for another use; see note) and stir-fry over medium heat for 2 minutes. Pour spiced vinegar sauce over spare ribs and serve hot.

Note Black cardamom (sometimes labelled fructus tsaoko), dried sand ginger (also known as zedoary) and pickled green birdseye chillies are all available from Asian grocers. Master stock is traditionally used and reused many times for poaching meats. It will keep refrigerated for three days or frozen for a month, and can then be boiled and stored again.

At A Glance

  • Serves 8 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 8 people

Drink Suggestion

Spicy, strong ale.

Featured in

Oct 2012

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