A Life Update, with a side of Sweet and Savoury Pork Spare Ribs

It’s been a whirlwind few months – I left my previous job and moved out of Oxford over the summer, went back home to get married :), spent a month with my in-laws in Malaysia and had another wedding reception there, and then moved to New York with WS end of September.

It’s been exciting, tiring, stressful, amazing, fun, scary – so many different emotions but perhaps the feeling that sticks with us most is gratitude for this opportunity to be able to experience incredible NYC!

This is not the first time we moved to a new place together. In 2010, we moved to Oxford for our graduate degrees, but we lived in separate colleges and had only been dating for 1.5 years back then. Being married feels different in the sense that there is a feeling of mutual obligation to really make a home for ourselves, to invest in nice, practical things that we will use, hopefully, for a good time yet (let’s see how our new rug and cookware hold up!)

I’m rambling on about life when my blog is supposed to be about food. Well, food and life are inextricably bound up with one another; life is sustained by food, and life is also made wonderful by the food we eat and the people we share it with! Anyway, I recently made these Sweet and Savoury Spare Ribs – because they are easy to make and remind me of home, which is nice when you’ve just moved to a new city and everything is different. My mom taught me this recipe many years ago when I left for college because she said it is the easiest thing to make. Most Cantonese families have this recipe because it is a simple 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ratio of ingredients. Oh, and it’s also very tasty.

Sweet and Savoury Spare Ribs

Forgive me for the terrible photo. These pork ribs truly epitomise the saying, ‘tastes much better than it looks’!


1-1.5 lbs pork spare ribs (best if chopped into short ribs)
1 tablespoon rice wine (or dry sherry, or cooking wine)
2 tablespoons vinegar (red Chinese vinegar, or rice vinegar)
3 tablespoons sugar (rock sugar, or white sugar)
4 tablespoons light soy sauce (if using cooking wine instead of rice wine, reduce to 3.5 tablespoons because cooking wine has salt content)
5 tablespoons water, you may need more if a lot of it evaporates
3 or 4 slices of ginger

Method* edited 10/March/2015 to include step 0 after discovering this makes a huge difference!

0. Parboil ribs – boil ribs in medium-sized pot for 2-5 minutes until outside cooked and blood seeps out. Drain away water and wash ribs with cold water to remove any scum.

1. Mix wine, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce in separate bowl then add to pot.
2. Add pork ribs to pot and coat with sauce. Add ginger.
3. Add water to pot. If 5 tablespoons not enough to cover most of ribs, add a little more water.
4. Bring pot to boil. After full boil reached, turn down heat to as low as you can to keep the ribs simmering. Skim off any more dried blood with spoon.
5. Now, if you like ribs to really be falling off the bone, then you’re going to need to simmer these ribs on low heat for 2 hours. But of course they’ll cook in less time, just that they might not be as tender as they could be!
6. When ribs are fully cooked, remove ribs from the pot, then boil to condense the remaining sauce. You want at this point also want to skim off some of excess oil (depends on how fatty the ribs are).
7. Pour sauce over ribs and serve.

Very low effort, no?

I have to confess though that four years ago, I attempted to cook this for my now mother-in-law and brother-in-law but failed MISERABLY. I had used white vinegar and added too much water, creating a watery, sour-ish sauce that was truly awful. It was the first thing I had ever cooked for WS’s food-loving family, too, so I was extremely embarrassed. I was only saved by the fact that WS’s vegetable dish that he served up was not much better :P. Yep, I like to think we’ve come some way!