Red-Cooked Mini Spareribs and Oyster Sauce Glazed Asparagus and Mushrooms

Nothing smells more like home to me than a pot of meat braising gently on the stove. My mom's red-cooked ribs were my particular favorite. Red-cooking is a process by which meats are slowly braised in a soy sauce-based liquid with sugar and spices, usually some combo of star anise and cinnamon. It smells intoxicating, and the meat is always tender and flavorful. When I got a pack of mini spare ribs from the Asian market last weekend, I immediately thought of red-cooking them.

I love any kind of braise since it's hands-off and gives you time to whip up a number of veggie side dishes while the meat is doing its thing. Then you come out looking like a magician when it's dinnertime and your loved ones sit down to a table full of food. To go with it, I made some smacked cucumbers and this asparagus and mushroom stir-fry from Food52 that has become one of my favorites. It's savory and hearty enough to be a main course if you want something light, but it also pairs so well with any other Chinese food. Together, this made a really satisfying Sunday dinner.

Chinese Red-Cooked Mini Spareribs
(Recipe from O and O Eats)

  • 1 rack of pork ribs (2-3 lbs), cut into mini individual riblets (they come packaged this way at my local Asian store)
  • 1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1" segment of ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4" pieces
  • 4 dried red chile peppers
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1/4 cup Shaoxing rice wine (can substitute dry sherry)
  • 1/4 cup rock sugar (or 2 tbsp packed dark brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 cups water or broth

  1. Heat up oil in a large pot over medium-high heat (I used a Dutch oven). Add the garlic, ginger, chiles, and star anise and fry for 1 minute, until they release their fragrance. 
  2. Add the pork ribs and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. 
  3. Add the rice wine and let reduce for 1 minute. 
  4. Add the soy sauce, sugar, and water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer uncovered for 2 hours, or until the sauce has reduced down to a syrupy consistency, and the meat is fork-tender. Periodically skim the fat and scum off the surface during the braising time. 
  5. Serve with lots of white rice!

Oyster Sauce Glazed Asparagus and Mushrooms
(Adapted from Food52)

  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp cornstarch
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oi
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced (fresh Shiitake are the best, but you can use any mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  1. Trim asparagus and cut into 2-inch segments. 
  2. Mix oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch, and water in a small bowl until combined. Set aside. 
  3. Heat 1 tbsp oil over high heat in a wok or large skillet. Add asparagus and cook for 3 minutes. Add shallots and cook for 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate. 
  4. Heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat to the same wok or skillet. Add sliced mushrooms and cook for a few minutes until they have slightly browned and shrunk in appearance. 
  5. Add asparagus and shallots back to pan. Turn heat down to medium. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds, or until fragrant. 
  6. Add reserved sauce and toss to ensure all the vegetables are coated. The sauce will reduce rapidly. (If it's thicker than you prefer, you can add a tbsp or two of water to loosen it up.) Serve. 

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