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Japanese-Style Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

Todd Coleman © 2011

Servings: 4

This is a Japanese version of the grilling classic from the American South, which we promise will be just as bone-sucking good as the ribs you’ll find in a Memphis pit barbecue. Instead of the traditional slow and low (temperature) method for ribs, with this recipe you braise the ribs unitl they’re tender, then grill. This way, you’ll get both fall-off-the-bone tenderness and nice caramelization and char; in other words, rib nirvana. Save the braising liquid; it cooks down into a phenomenal barbecue sauce.


  • 2 racks baby back ribs (about 5 to 6 pounds)
  • 1 whole unpeeled bulb garlic, halved horizontally across the mid-section
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup sake
  • 2 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. red miso
  • 1 Tbs. tobanjan
  • 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbs. sesame seeds, for accent


  • Cut each rack of baby back ribs in half, which will yield 4 portions of 5 to 6 ribs each. To a large stockpot, add the ribs, 6 cups water, garlic, onion, carrot, tomato puree, sake, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, miso, tobanjan, and peppercorns and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat so the liquid gently simmers. Remove any scum or oil that floats to the surface. Cover the pot and cook until the ribs become tender, about 1 hour.

    Remove the ribs from the pot and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid. To make the marinade, bring the cooking liquid to a boil over high heat and boil until it reduces by half and becomes syrupy. Remove from the heat and allow the liquid to come to room temperature. Transfer the liquid to the jar of a blender, cover, and pulse until smooth, about 1 minute. Pass the liquid through a fine-meshed strainer suspended over a large bowl and discard any solids caught in the strainer. Set the marinade aside.

    Preheat a grill to hot. Grill the ribs for about 4 minutes, flipping once. When the ribs are browned and sizzling, brush the marinade on top. Grill for about 2 more minutes, flipping 2 or3 times, and brushing on more marinade after each turn. Let the ribs rest for 2 minutes. Accent with sesame seed and serve.


Tobanjan is a Japanese paste of fermented soybeans and chiles. It is available in Asian markets, as is red miso.Reprinted with permission from The Japanese Grill: From Classic Yakitori to Steak, Seafood, and Vegetables by Tadashi Ono & Harris Salat, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.


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  • bmgrsgjag3 | 04/10/2011

    Great ribs. I'll just give it a 4.5 for two reasons:Red miso and turbanjan. I found red miso but no turbanjan. I used siracha sauce. This recipe is definitely a keeper.I would braise the ribs one day (or in the morning) and then cook them the next since the sauce takes time to boil down.

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