Chefs' Recipes

Tony Tan’s Nyonya pork spare ribs

A Peranakan dish that sings with sweet, savoury and sour notes.

Tony Tan's Nyonya pork spare ribs

James Moffatt
2H 30M

“The origin of this dish is from the Penang Peranakan community. It’s super delicious and addictive with tangy, savoury notes, made with blended chillies, garlic, ginger and tau cheo or fermented yellow soy beans and finished off with tamarind and plum sauce. Ask your butcher to cut the ribs in half horizontally so the ribs are shorter in length,” says Tan.



1.For fresh chillies, slice and blend in a blender to a paste. If using dried chillies, snip with scissors and cover with boiling water in a heatproof bowl and soak (20 minutes). When soft, discard water and blend in a blender to a coarse paste.
2.Heat oil in a wok or large frying pan. When hot, add chillies, garlic, ginger and shallots and stir-fry until golden (5 minutes). Reduce heat to low-medium and add yellow bean sauce. Continue to stir-fry (3-4 minutes), then add pork ribs and cook until golden (2-3 minutes).
3.Add chicken stock or water to the pan. Bring to the boil and add tamarind, soy and sugar. Cover and reduce heat to low, and simmer until liquid is reduced to a syrup and meat is tender (1½ hours). Stir through plum sauce; adjust seasoning. Scatter over coriander and spring onions.

Tan serves this dish with an acar of pickled sliced cucumber and chillies, with salt and sugar to taste, and a splash of rice wine vinegar. Yellow bean sauce (tau cheo or taucu in the Hokkien language) is made from soy beans that are salted and fermented. If unavailable, substitute miso. To make 80ml tamarind extract, combine 1 tbsp tamarind pulp with 100ml water, and stand until pulp softens. Break up pulp in water with back of spoon and strain through a coarse sieve.


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