Taro Steamed Spare Ribs (芋頭蒸排骨)

Learn how to make this hearty Cantonese classic!

Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
60 min
Yields
4 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

Taro spare ribs meld the happy flavors of taro, spare ribs, and fermented black beans together in a warm, delicious combination.

The layered ingredients result in an aromatic steam wafting up and amazing sauces running down, each component absorbing flavor from its neighbor.

Taro all the time

As a tropical plant, taro has traditionally been a seasonal option.

Nowadays, you can often find it year-round. If not, they even have frozen taro available, so you can make this classic Cantonese dish whenever you want!

If you can't get your hands on one, or if you'd prefer to make this without taro, steamed spare ribs with the same black bean sauce was actually one of our first recipes. You can check that out here!

Check out a quick story summary of our recipe!

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
4
    Main Ingredients
  • 1 lb spare ribs
  • 1 lb taro
  • 0.50 oz dried fermented black bean
  • 1 piece rehydrated dried mandarin peel
  • 2 stalks green onion
  • 1 slice ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 red chili pepper
  • Spare Rib Marinade
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 0.50 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 0.50 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cooking wine
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 0.25 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • Other
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Taro here and taro there

The English term ‘taro’ is borrowed from the Māori language, adapted by English traders visiting plantations in New Zealand in the 1700s. Starchy and nutritious, taro is a staple ingredient in various regions around the world.

It's a recurring element in many staple Cantonese dishes, such as the taro cakes we made before.

Handling taro safely

You can wear food-safe gloves to protect your hands from the irritating calcium oxalate found in raw taro. My dad's never used gloves, though, so it's entirely up to you!

Calcium oxalate is what makes raw taro toxic and unsafe to consume, and rinsing the cut taro gets us a head start on washing some of it away. Cooking takes care of the rest, leaving us with safe and delicious taro.

Buying the best spare ribs

If your grocery store doesn't have pre-cut pork spare ribs, you can get St. Louis style ribs and ask the butcher to cut across the bones. It's very difficult to cut the bones at home.

The ribs closer to the tail of the pig tend to be less fatty, which is my dad's preference.

Rinsing and soaking meat

The steps of washing and soaking the spare ribs in water help drain out the red liquid, lightening the color of the final cooked dish and reducing the taste of blood. The red liquid itself, however, is actually not blood, but myoglobin, the iron-rich protein that stores extra oxygen in muscles that are used often. We talk more about myoglobin in this recipe.

It's not necessary to do either of these steps, but you definitely can, especially if you want to achieve that pale spare ribs you see in dim sum.

Just be aware that you may be rinsing away some nutrients, such as iron, and be careful to wipe down your kitchen area in case of any splashes that could spread bacteria.

Rinse the dried fermented black beans (0.50 oz) 3 times. Then, let it soak in the water to rehydrate for at least 5 minutes. We like to use warm water to help the water really soak in.

Peel the tough white membrane off the spare ribs (1 lb) by making a small cut at the end, between the membrane and the meat, and pulling it away from the meat. This will make the ribs less tough.

Cut the ribs into bite size pieces, and place them in a bowl. If you like, you can wash or soak them as well.

We'll start making the marinade by mixing together cornstarch (2 tbsp), salt (0.50 tsp), sugar (1 tsp), oyster sauce (1 tbsp), light soy sauce (1 tbsp), dark soy sauce (0.50 tsp), baking soda (1 tsp), cooking wine (1 tbsp), water (2 tbsp), and white pepper (0.25 tsp) in a separate bowl. Baking soda is the secret for tender, juicy spare ribs!

Smash and mince ginger (1 slice) and garlic (2 cloves). Also, mince the rehydrated dried mandarin peel (1 piece), which will make the dish even more fragrant. Add these to the marinade along with sesame oil (1 tbsp), and then pour it over the spare ribs and mix it all up.

Set aside to marinate for half an hour to an hour.

We'll carefully cut around the taro with our knife to score the slice where we want to cut it, so we end up with taro (1 lb). Once there's a path for the knife to drive safely down, we'll chop deep into the taro and split the slice off.

Lay the slice down flat and use the knife to cut the skin off in segments. Wash the slice of taro with water, and then lay it flat again on the cutting surface.

Cut the taro into slices, and then cubes. We'll end up with 1-2 inch cubes.

Put the taro in the dish we'll use for steaming. Toss the taro with light soy sauce (1 tbsp) so it's evenly mixed. Make sure to arrange the taro so that it fully layers the bottom of the dish, ready to receive the delicious sauce and juices from the pork.

We'll dice up green onion (2 stalks) and red chili pepper (1), and then put them aside.

Take half of the rehydrated fermented black beans and crush them with the back of a spoon. Mix the crushed beans into the ribs.

Add vegetable oil (1 tbsp) into the ribs and mix. This will help keep the meat smooth and juicy.

Spread the ribs over the plate of taro. To ensure even and thorough coverage, lay the ribs along the edge of the plate first. Then pour the rest into the middle and spread them out.

Take the rest of the fermented black beans that are still whole, and spread them over the ribs. Add the chopped red chili pepper on top for both fragrance and a pop color.

Place a steam rack into a pan, and fill it with water until it just covers the steam rack. When the water comes to a boil, place the dish inside and steam for 20 minutes on high heat.

The taro is cooked through when a chopstick can pierce through easily, just like a baked potato. Turn off the heat, and carefully remove the dish from the pan. The steam is hot!

Garnish by sprinkling the chopped green onion over top, and it's ready to serve!

Summary

Taro Steamed Spare Ribs (芋頭蒸排骨)
Learn how to make this hearty Cantonese classic!
  • Prep Time: 20 min
  • Total Time: 60 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
    Main Ingredients
  • 1 lb spare ribs
  • 1 lb taro
  • 0.50 oz dried fermented black bean
  • 1 piece rehydrated dried mandarin peel
  • 2 stalks green onion
  • 1 slice ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 red chili pepper
  • Spare Rib Marinade
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 0.50 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 0.50 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cooking wine
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 0.25 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • Other
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
Step 1 - Rinse & soak black beans↑ Jump to details

Rinse the dried fermented black beans (0.50 oz) in warm water 3 times. Then, let it soak in the water to rehydrate for at least 5 minutes.

Step 2 - Prepare the spare ribs↑ Jump to details

Peel the membrane off the spare ribs (1 lb) by making a small cut at the end, and pulling it away from the meat.

Cut the ribs into bite size pieces, and place them in a bowl. Optionally, wash or soak the ribs.

Step 3 - Marinate the ribs↑ Jump to details

Make the marinade by mixing together cornstarch (2 tbsp), salt (0.50 tsp), sugar (1 tsp), oyster sauce (1 tbsp), light soy sauce (1 tbsp), dark soy sauce (0.50 tsp), baking soda (1 tsp), cooking wine (1 tbsp), water (2 tbsp), and white pepper (0.25 tsp).

Mince ginger (1 slice), garlic (2 cloves), and the rehydrated dried mandarin peel (1 piece). Add these to the marinade along with sesame oil (1 tbsp), and then mix it all up with the spare ribs.

Set aside to marinate for half an hour to an hour.

Step 4 - Prepare taro↑ Jump to details

Carefully cut around the taro to score the slice where we want to cut it, so we end up with taro (1 lb). Then, chop deep into the taro and split the slice off.

Lay the slice down flat and cut the skin off. Wash the taro with water, and then chop the taro into 1-2 inch cubes.

Toss the taro with light soy sauce (1 tbsp) so it's evenly mixed. Arrange the taro into a full layer on the bottom of the steaming dish.

Step 5 - Chop scallions & chili↑ Jump to details

Dice green onion (2 stalks) and red chili pepper (1) and set aside.

Step 6 - Steam ribs & taro↑ Jump to details

Crush half of the rehydrated fermented black beans with the back of a spoon. Mix them into the ribs.

Add vegetable oil (1 tbsp) into the ribs and mix.

Spread the ribs over the plate of taro.

Take the rest of the fermented black beans that are still whole, and spread them over the ribs. Add the chopped red chili pepper on top.

Steam for 20 minutes on high heat.

Step 7 - Garnish & plate↑ Jump to details

When the taro is cooked through, turn off the heat, and remove the dish from the pan.

Garnish by sprinkling the chopped green onion over top, and enjoy!

Step 8 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 9 - 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.