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Waking the Nine Dragons!

So a few nights ago I embarked on a proof of concept with a small rack of pork prime riblets. I’ve been sworn to secrecy by my butcher Pete NOT to disclose where I purchased said pork but what I can tell you is that they’re small, meaty and really, really tasty especially when you use Meatheads’ “Hoisinful Nine Dragons Ribs” recipe. Honestly, we shared two ribs as an appetizer with each of our 3 friends the other night and the vote was unanimous, these were INCREDIBLE ribs!

Here’s the original recipe that Meathead uses as well as a great story to go behind the recipe – click here. Given that our riblets were very small I simply adjusted the timing and got exactly what I was hoping for….lip smackin’ pork goodness with a fantastic Chinese influence. We of course used the indirect outdoor grilling method but you can also achieve riblet bliss by roasting these ribs in the oven.

Now given that we live in Singapore, we’re lucky to have unrestricted access to traditional Chinese ingredients pretty much anywhere we go. If you can’t get what you need for this recipe in your local shop, you can always order online or wander down to Chinatown if you have one and go nuts!

The magic ingredient in this marinade/basting sauce is Hoisin. If you’ve ever dined on the likes of mu-shu pork, Chinese spring rolls, or Peking duck (peek-a-boo) then you’ve no doubt had this staple sauce.  It’s as widely used across Asia as ketchup would be in North America or brown sauce in the UK. Here’s Wikipedia’s take on Hoisin.

So the preparation for the marinade is simple, messy if wish, and takes only about 10 minutes.  Now, I made plenty of sauce and actually just made 3 times the requisite amount for this weekend. It’s our daughter Kalyna’s 1st birthday and dad’s grillin’ 10 racks in style! (more entries on that later.)

The marinade 1 cup of hoisin sauce 1/4 cup diced onions 1/4 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup rice wine or white wine 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar 1/4 cup orange juice 1/4 cup fresh ginger, grated 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil 1 tablespoon mustard powder 2 tablespoons chipotle chili sauce (gives a good smokey flavour to the ribs) 3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed 1 teaspoon five spice powder

Combine it all and then pulse it in a blender until you’ve pretty much pureed the chunks of onion, garlic and ginger.  This step also lets the spices fuse together and provided for a velvety coating for the ribs. Now, pop your slab of riblets in a jumbo sized zip top bag and cover them with your marinade, leaving about a third for steeping later on in the process.

Set your grill up for indirect cooking (no direct flame) and stabilize the temperature at a very low 225 F. On a Big Green Egg, that’s pretty easy to achieve however if you’ve got another grill, simply put a pan of water below your grilling spot and watch your temperature gauge.

Your first round will simply have you placing the riblet slabs on the indirect grill and let them roast meat side up for 1 hour and 15 minutes. (Remember, I’ve adjusted the timing from Meathead’s original recipe.) You’ll see the meat contract after this step about 1/2 ” from the edge of the bone.

Round two has you wrapping the riblet slabs meat side up in aluminium foil packets.  Pour some of the reserved marinade over the slab and seal up the packet and bake for another 30 minutes.

Round three, carefully remove the packets from the grid, open them up gingerly as the steam can burn.  At this point, remove your indirect heat shield and liberally coat the meat side of the riblet slabs with your favorite honey.  Pop the slabs, meat side down, onto direct heat for 5 minutes or until it brows up and starts to bubble. Keep the dome open and watch so that nothing burns.

Let the ribs rest for a few minutes more under some aluminium foil and then slice them up.  Plonk them in a metal bowl, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and some freshly diced scallions and you’re ready to serve possible the best Chinese-style ribs I’ve ever tasted!  Hope you enjoy this as mush as we did!

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Overall Heather Rating: 10/10

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