Chinese BBQ Spare Ribs (燒排骨)

Learn how to make this easy Cantonese take on barbecue ribs!

Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
75 min
Yields
5 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

What is siu paai gwat (燒排骨)?

The name of this dish is siu paai gwat. Siu means “roast”, and just like caa siu or siu juk (or Crispy Pork Belly), BBQ Spare Ribs belongs to the epic family of siu mei, which means Cantonese-style roasted meats. Traditionally, these meats were painstakingly roasted on spits and open fires, but nowadays, it’s impossible to walk through a Chinatown without running into a Chinese BBQ shop with dozens of delicious roasted meats hanging by the window.

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
5
    Main Ingredient
  • 3 lb pork rib
  • Flavors
  • 1 tbsp garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
  • 0.50 tsp five spice powder
  • 0.25 tsp red food coloring
  • Glaze Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp maltose/honey (

    If you don't have maltose/honey, you can make a glaze of 2 tbsp of white granulated sugar and 2 tbsp of water.

    )

The magic of five spice powder

For those of you unfamiliar with five spice powder, or ng hoeng fan in Cantonese, it is an umbrella for the popular Chinese blends of spices that usually consist of cinnamon, fennel seeds, star anise, cloves, and peppers.

The number five doesn't necessarily literally mean that it has five ingredients as some blends use fewer spices and some blends use way more than five ingredients.

Five spice powder is actually a nod to the five traditional Chinese elements: earth, fire, water, wood, and metal. It's also a balancing act of the five traditional flavors of Chinese cuisine: salty, spicy, sour, sweet, and bitter.

How to select the perfect meat

You'll need to take a few things into consideration when buying meat for this recipe - the cut of meat and freshness.

There are cuts that have a lot of meat cut away. Some cuts have a lot of meat left on them. There are two types of spare ribs: some are narrower with thicker meat, some are wider with thinner meat. It's up to you what you like but for BBQ, Daddy Lau suggests that you get a wider cut.

When handling the meat, move it around a little. If it's not full of liquid, then it's fresh. If there's a lot of liquid, then it's been sitting out for a while.

Equipment you'll need

To make this, you’ll need a few things:

This is optional, but you might also want to use a meat thermometer that allows you to monitor the internal temperature of the pork as it’s cooking.

My dad literally chuckled at me when I asked him about this and said, “we don’t cook this way,” but since I haven’t yet acquired my dad’s intuition in the kitchen, I like to use these to whenever I cook big pieces of meat.

Create cuts between the bones and along the thick side of the ribs (3 lb) so that the meat takes on the flavors better and that it cooks faster.

Remove moisture from the ribs by dabbing both sides with kitchen paper - this allows the ribs to take on the flavors better too.

Rub garlic salt (1 tbsp) onto the ribs. Make sure to cover all surfaces on both sides. Pay special attention to the slits that you made earlier.

In a medium bowl, mix sugar (1 tbsp), salt (2 tsp), white pepper (1 tsp), ketchup (2 tbsp), cooking wine (2 tbsp), five-spice powder (0.50 tsp), and red food coloring (0.25 tsp) (which is optional). Set aside for the next step.

Place ribs in a tray lined with a plastic sheet and spread the marinade thinly onto both sides of the ribs. Wrap ribs with the plastic sheet when finished.

Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours and a maximum of 8 hours. Daddy Lau recommends marinating in the morning and cooking it at night after you're finished with work.

Note that the meat will get tough if you let it marinate for too long.

For the glaze, you can use maltose or honey (2 tbsp). Brush it over the spare ribs and they'll glisten and taste great.

If you don't have either of those, you can combine 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp water in a small bowl. Microwave for one minute, stir the mixture, and microwave for another one minute. Make sure to mix the syrup in between otherwise the sugar may burn.

You'll know when it's done when the syrup sticks to the spoon. When it cools down, it'll thicken up more. BE CAREFUL AS THE SYRUP IS VERY HOT AT FIRST!

Remove ribs from the refrigerator and allow them to rest for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line the baking pan with foil, put a baking tray above the foil, and bake the ribs for 30-35 minutes.

Do not cover the meat as it will take longer to cook and you won't get any charring on the surface.

After 30-35 minutes of baking, remove the ribs and brush the glaze of choice onto them.

Put the ribs back into the oven for 10 more minutes.

Once the ribs have been baking for about 45 minutes in total, take it out and let it rest for 10 minutes.

If you cut into it while it's still hot, the juice will all come out.

Taste to adjust the flavors and plate once it's to your taste! This is usually served on a large serving plate and everyone can take the amount they want.

Summary

Chinese BBQ Spare Ribs (燒排骨)
Learn how to make this easy Cantonese take on barbecue ribs!
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 75 min
  • Yield: 5 servings
    Main Ingredient
  • 3 lb pork rib
  • Flavors
  • 1 tbsp garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
  • 0.50 tsp five spice powder
  • 0.25 tsp red food coloring
  • Glaze Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp maltose/honey (

    If you don't have maltose/honey, you can make a glaze of 2 tbsp of white granulated sugar and 2 tbsp of water.

    )
Step 1 - Prepare the spare ribs↑ Jump to details

Create cuts between the bones and along the thick side of the ribs (3 lb) so that the meat takes on the flavors better and that it cooks faster.

Remove moisture from the ribs by dabbing both sides with kitchen paper - this allows the ribs to take on the flavors better too.

Step 2 - Rub seasoning↑ Jump to details

Rub garlic salt (1 tbsp) onto the ribs. Make sure to cover all surfaces on both sides. Pay special attention to the slits that you made earlier.

Step 3 - Create marinade↑ Jump to details

In a medium bowl, mix sugar (1 tbsp), salt (2 tsp), white pepper (1 tsp), ketchup (2 tbsp), cooking wine (2 tbsp), five-spice powder (0.50 tsp), and red food coloring (0.25 tsp) (which is optional). Set aside for the next step.

Step 4 - Marinate and refrigerate ribs↑ Jump to details

Place ribs in a tray lined with a plastic sheet and spread the marinade thinly onto both sides of the ribs. Wrap ribs with the plastic sheet when finished.

Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours and a maximum of 8 hours. Daddy Lau recommends marinating in the morning and cooking it at night after you're finished with work.

Note that the meat will get tough if you let it marinate for too long.

Step 5 - Prepare glaze↑ Jump to details

For the glaze, you can use maltose or honey (2 tbsp). Brush it over the spare ribs and they'll glisten and taste great.

If you don't have either of those, you can combine 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp water in a small bowl. Microwave for one minute, stir the mixture, and microwave for another one minute. Make sure to mix the syrup in between otherwise the sugar may burn.

You'll know when it's done when the syrup sticks to the spoon. When it cools down, it'll thicken up more. BE CAREFUL AS THE SYRUP IS VERY HOT AT FIRST!

Step 6 - Rest and bake ribs↑ Jump to details

Remove ribs from the refrigerator and allow them to rest for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line the baking pan with foil, put a baking tray above the foil, and bake the ribs for 30-35 minutes.

Do not cover the meat as it will take longer to cook and you won't get any charring on the surface.

Step 7 - Glaze ribs↑ Jump to details

After 30-35 minutes of baking, remove the ribs and brush the glaze of choice onto them.

Put the ribs back into the oven for 10 more minutes.

Step 8 - Rest ribs, cut, taste test & plate↑ Jump to details

Once the ribs have been baking for about 45 minutes in total, take it out and let it rest for 10 minutes.

If you cut into it while it's still hot, the juice will all come out.

Taste to adjust the flavors and plate once it's to your taste! This is usually served on a large serving plate and everyone can take the amount they want.

Step 9 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 10 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

We have many, many happy memories of enjoying this dish growing up.

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this dish with your loved ones.

Also, I cordially invite you to eat with us and learn more about the dish, Chinese culture, and my family.

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.