Fiery Sulawesi pork ribs


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia

Fire Islands

By Eleanor Ford

Published 2019

  • About

If you like your food fiery, Mandano in Northern Sulawesi is the place for you. Here fragrant spices and heavy use of chilli typify the food for heat that hits you with shouts, not whispers. As many Minahasan people are Christian (alongside a common persuasion towards blood magic), halal dietary restrictions have not shaped the cuisine. This means bush meats from rats and bats to wild boar and python fill the butchers’ markets. A little less exotic, these succulent barbecued pork ribs make a particularly good carrier for the big flavours.


  • 2 racks of baby back ribs

Bumbu spice paste

  • 5 small red Asian shallots, peeled
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3-4 large red chillies, seeded
  • 5 cm (2 inches) ginger, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons dark palm sugar (gula jawa), shaved

Dabu dabu dipping sauce

  • 3 tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 large red chillies, seeded and finely sliced
  • 1 red bird’s eye chilli, finely sliced (optional)
  • 2 small red Asian shallots, finely chopped
  • juice of a lime
  • 2 teaspoons dark palm sugar (gula jawa), shaved
  • 1 teaspoon salt


Roughly chop the ingredients for the bumbu, then blend to a paste in a food processor. Add a little water to help it come together, if needed. Season generously with salt and black pepper.

Use a small knife to remove the membrane from the underside of the ribs. Smear half the bumbu into the ribs and lay them in a shallow oven dish. Cover tightly with foil and leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours.

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Roast under the foil cover for 2½ hours. Baste once or twice during cooking. The fat should have melted leaving the meat very tender.

Meanwhile make the dipping sauce by combining all the ingredients and taste for heat, sweetness and tang.

Heat a barbecue, grill or griddle pan to high heat. Grill the ribs on both sides until they start to char and caramelise, then smear over the remaining bumbu. Continue grilling until the sauce is dry and fragrant. Eat with your fingers, dipping into the dabu dabu as you go.