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!


A typical meal at home

I thought for a change I would post about a more ordinary meal that is more reflective of what I eat on a daily basis.

There are some incredible bloggers out there who post amazing photos every day, and I don’t know how they do it because it must mean that they cook great, photo-worthy food all the time. These people are dedicated to sharing their creations and keep at it 24/7… which is quite a feat!

I’m definitely not one of those cooks. That’s not to say I think that the stuff I’ve posted here is particularly nice, but I have to confess that what I eat normally is even humbler. This is why I thought I would write a little bit about a typical Chinese dinner I would prepare.

Most meals comprise of 2-3 dishes, served with white rice. Of these dishes, one is meat/seafood-based; the other, a vegetable dish.  Occasionally I like cooking ‘one-pot’ meal like noodles in soup, but I prefer the variety of having several small plates of food to pick and choose from.

Here is an example of a very typical meal:

protein, veg, and carbs

1- Protein: pan-fried salmon with teriyaki style sauce (soy sauce, mirin, sugar, black pepper and salt)

2- Veg: quick stir-fried/blanched green vegetables – I like Romaine lettuce, broccoli, Chinese or Napa cabbage, spinach, kai lan, choi sum

3- Extra dish: egg, for extra protein and because it goes so well with rice

4– Carbs: boiled Thai jasmine rice

(Note: dessert is a must, ha! Usually fruit and one ‘something sweet’ – ice cream, yoghurt, cookies. I find that I need that extra something to make myself feel full — and I know that while that’s not really healthy, I think it’s more important to have everything in moderation and to enjoy eating. In fact I think it’s more important to have a healthy attitude about food than it is to eat necessarily ‘healthy’ foods. People who associate eating and food with guilt, sadness, self-control etc often suffer from some form of eating disorder, so please, be kind to yourselves, and see food as nourishment, not as a tool to order your life. OK rant over!)

So this is the kind of food I normally eat for dinner. What about you guys? Is there a go-to kind of food, or combination of foods that you cook for yourselves/your family?

Here’s to a new year

Happy January!

A lot of things have happened since I last blogged – a lot of good things. The 3 weeks back home, with a short detour to Singapore for a wedding, were fantastic. Every day was spent with friends and family, accompanied by some seriously good (and cheap) food. I do recognise that ‘home’ will invariably be viewed through rose-tinted frames, as it has become more a holiday destination, a place of memory, and, a return to times free of the little things that make ‘growing up’ a little scary sometimes. But I’m happy to take whatever I can get, and feel very blessed that I can go on long-ish holidays without too much stress.

This year I’m hoping to experiment a little more with Asian cuisines and with French cuisine – did I mention that I got a French bistro cookbook for Christmas and have already started making gratins and crepes! Obviously with the French stuff, I’m less at liberty to experiment as I know next to nothing. But yes… maybe a little Chinese/French fusion? Both cuisines are very big on the quality of their sauces and condiments. And both cuisines understand how to cook vegetables well. Two promising starting points…

Anyway just a short, more personal post for now as I roll up my sleeves and get back into blogging about food.

– Sheila