Chinese Sweet-And-Sour Spareribs

This traditional Chinese recipe, served with its renowned sauce that can enhance a variety of dishes, is easily adapted to the pot. It proved to be one of our most successful experiments, and you'll find yourself going back to it again and again.

Ask your butcher for "country-style" spareribs, so much meatier than the usual kind. Sesame oil, used in small quantities as much for its aroma as its taste, is standard for the finishing touch of many Chinese dishes.

Ingredients

Sweet-and-Sour Sauce

  • 1 cup malt vinegar, more if necessary
  • 2 tablespoons salt, more if necessary
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, more if necessary
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup pineapple juice
  • ½ cup tomato paste
  • Arrowroot

Spareribs

  • 4 pounds country-style spareribs, trimmed of all fat
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 6 small white onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 green pepper, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 2 very firm medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
  • 10 pineapple chunks, preferably fresh
  • Arrowroot
  • Dash of sesame oil

Method

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce, except the arrowroot, in a saucepan. Bring to a slow boil, cover, and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Taste the sauce to determine the proper balance of saltiness, sweetness, and sourness. (Use more salt if necessary; if too sweet, add malt vinegar slowly. If too sour, add a bit of sugar.) Thicken the sauce by bringing to a low boil and adding enough arrowroot (mixed with a little water) to make the consistency heavy.

Presoak a large clay pot, top and bottom, in water for 10 minutes.

Rub the spareribs with 2 teaspoons of the salt and the pepper. With a pastry brush, paint all sides of meat generously with the sauce, then place the ribs in the presoaked pot.

Cover the pot and place it in a cold oven.

Set the oven temperature at 480 degrees.

Cook for 55 minutes.

Meanwhile, because they must be added quickly, place the onions, pepper, tomatoes, and pineapple chunks on a large plate. When the ribs have cooked 55 minutes, remove the pot from the oven, uncover, and quickly add the fruit and vegetables from the plate. Sprinkle with the remaining salt and top with a generous dollop of the sweet-and-sour sauce.

Return the covered pot to the oven and cook for an additional 25 minutes (total cooking time: about 80 minutes).

Remove the pot from the oven and pour off the sauce into a saucepan, heat, and thicken with arrowroot. Mix some more sweet-and-sour sauce with this and pour over the spareribs.

Sprinkle a few drops of sesame oil over the dish, stir lightly, and serve.

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