Pork spare ribs – they have to be one of my ultimate braai time treats, but only if they are done right. That means they are melt-in-the-mouth, fall-off-the-bone soft, yet smokey and charred at the same time.
The secret to getting it right? An initial cook followed by a super hot bit of braai love at the end. Now you can of course get marinated pre-cooked pork spare ribs in any supermarket. They’re ideal for the braai or under the grill. But here’s the rub… They are pretty awful, petty much all of them. Some so overcooked that they disintegrate on the braai, others with a decided chemical note to the basting sauce. Being a culinary control freak, I prefer doing it myself.
Pork is a fabulously accommodating little beast, going well with so many flavour profiles. Fennel is always a no-brainer. So too is anything Oriental, and that’s where I turned for inspiration for this spare ribs recipe. Chinese 5-spice, soy, honey, ginger… What more can I say?
All you need is…
2 cups tomato sauce (ketchup)
4 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
heaped teaspoon finely grated ginger
4 tsp Chinese 5-spice (the Woolworths 5-spice blend is very good)
¼ tsp smoked chilli flakes (also available at Woolies)
4 tbs runny honey
2 tbs soy sauce
2-2.5kg pork spare ribs
Mix all the basting ingredients together. Place the spare ribs in a large rectangular roasting dish and pour over two thirds of the baste. If you have time, cover and place it in the fridge for a few hours, better yet overnight. If not, it’s not the end of the world.
Cover the roasting dish with two layers of tin foil, tucking in the edges to ensure you have a nice, tight fit. Cook in a 160 degree Celsius oven (on normal setting, not thermo) until the pork is soft. This takes one and a half to two hours.
Place the ribs on a seriously hot braai and paint liberally on both sides with the baste you kept aside. The idea here is to get a good char on, it takes mere minutes. You can keep the pork spare ribs whole for this stage, but I find it much easier to handle on the braai if I cut in into chucks of 3-4 ribs. Serve up on a large platter with some limes for drizzling and, if you really want to punch up the flavour, also scatter it with finely chopped spring onion, coriander and finely sliced red chilli.
COOK’S TIP: You can slow roast the spare ribs until done, the allow them to cool and keep in your fridge for a good two days before they go on the braai. The flavour only improves and it is great for pre-planning when you entertain a crowd.