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Recipe

Vietnamese Spareribs with Chile and Lemongrass

Angie Moser

Servings: 12 as an appetizer

Like other Vietnamese restaurants, Nam Phuong in Atlanta serves pho, but their ribs are the best thing on the menu. The meat is tender with a crackly exterior. Nam Phuong uses flanken or crosscut ribs, which are like little rib nuggets, each with a bone inside. You can order different sauces, but my favorite is the chile and lemongrass. To bring you those flavors and textures, I steam-bake the ribs until tender and then broil and baste them with a puree of lemongrass, chiles, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, and sugar. A little rice on the side is perfect.

Ingredients

  • 3-1/2 lb. Asian-style (flanken) pork spareribs, about 36 pieces (see tip)
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled, about 1/4 cup
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, sliced, about 1/4 cup
  • 3 Thai bird chiles
  • 1/4 red onion, stem and root ends trimmed, cut into chunks
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped, about 2 Tbs.
  • 1 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Preparation

  • Heat the oven to 325°F.
  • Season the ribs lightly with 1 tsp. of the salt and place on a broiler pan fitted with the broiling rack or a baking sheet fitted with a cooling rack. Add a 1/4-inch depth of boiling water to the pan, wrap the ribs and pan tightly with foil, and cook until the ribs are pull-apart tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Basically, you’re steaming the ribs.
  • In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the garlic, lemongrass, chiles, and onions and process for 30 seconds, until well chopped. Add the sugar, ginger, fish sauce, soy sauce, and the remaining 1 tsp. salt and continue processing to a coarse paste, scraping down the sides of the food processor a couple times.
  • Adjust the rack in the oven to the highest setting and preheat the broiler. Arrange the ribs, meat side up, on the rack and smear with some of the garlic paste. Broil the ribs until nicely caramelized, about 5 minutes. Watch carefully and when they start getting a little char on the tips, remove and flip them. Smear again with some of the paste and broil on the bone side for about 3 minutes. Flip, smear, and broil one final time so they are nice and crispy on the meat side, about 2 more minutes.
  • Using tongs, transfer the ribs to a cutting board and cut into single-bone pieces. Squeeze the lime into the pan drippings and stir to combine. Toss the ribs in the pan drippings and serve sprinkled with the cilantro.

Tip

Asian-style spareribs are cut across the bone, also known as flanken cut. You can find them at Asian markets or have your butcher cut them for you. Ask the butcher to cut the rack of ribs in thirds across the bones.

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