Sticky, sweet and spicy Chinese style ribs

When you fancy a Chinese takeaway the lure of the ribs on the menu tends to be strong… well at least in my mind anyway. Try making your own so you can make them as sweet, savoury or as spicy as you want- or all three! A rack of pork ribs is inexpensive and an average sized rack feeds two people so it’s a bargain! Keep your eyes out for a rack that has plenty of meat on it as some can be a little scrawny and that only brings disappointment rather than pure porky joy!

If you cast your eye down the list of ingredients you will notice that one of them is not Chinese, but Korean: gochujang. When I was putting the marinade together I thought what would give a deep chilli flavour but stand up to the other ingredients so it was settled.

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Ingredients- serves 4
2 racks of pork ribs
120ml oyster or hoisin sauce
60ml dark soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp gochujang
2 cm piece fresh ginger- grated
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 tbsp ground five spice

1. Ideally the ribs would have around 3 hours in the fridge marinating but overnight is perfect if you have a bit more time. Simply mix together all the ingredients in a bowl and pour most of the marinade over the racks. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate.

2. When you are ready to cook the ribs, preheat the oven to 160c/ 140 fan. Wrap the racks of ribs in foil parcels and make sure they are tightly sealed. Cook in the oven for around 3 hours (depending on the size of the racks). After this time the racks should be tender and flexible so you know they are nearly all set.

3. For the last step, turn up the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Peel back the foil and brush the last of the marinade over the ribs and cook for a further 10- 15 minutes until sticky and unctuous. Use a knife to separate the ribs and grab a stack of napkins (you’ll need them!); serve the ribs immediately.

Chinese takeaway style ribs- let’s face it, there’s no elegant way to eat these but dive in!

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Vietnamese style caramel pork

Think pork and sweet caramel don’t go together? Think again! This is my version of a classic Vietnamese dish which balances hot, sweet and savoury flavours for a well rounded meal. I have also used the base of the recipe with pan fried trout fillets which also works well if you prefer fish. Chicken and beef can be substituted and will be just as delicious. Pork shoulder can also be used but tenderloin remains more succulent when cooked over a high heat.

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Ingredients- serves 2 (can be doubled)
2 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
300- 350g pork tenderloin- cut into bite size pieces
1 red chilli- deseeded and finely chopped
1 shallot- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- crushed
2cm piece of ginger- peeled and grated
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
40g dark brown sugar
160ml water
4 spring onions- 2 finely sliced and 2 cut finely lengthways
2 heads of choi sum or other Chinese greens
2 tbsp sesame oil
80g jasmine rice

1. To start, grab make sure all your ingredients are prepped and weighed out as once you get going this recipe is quick so don’t be caught out! Boil a kettle ready for the rice and heat a griddle pan over a medium heat in preparation for the greens if using. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wok over a high heat and cook the pork pieces until browned all over and then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. If you are serving with rice and Chinese greens then pop the rice in and cook for around 10 minutes. I like to leave mine a little longer to make a sticky jasmine rice and then stir 2 chopped spring onions through it. The greens will need to be wilted in a griddle (or wok) with a drizzle of sesame oil so everything is ready together.

3. Heat the remaining oil and fry the chilli, shallot, garlic and ginger for a couple of minutes until beginning to soften. Next, pop in the sugar, water and fish sauce and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Keep the mixture bubbling and add the pork back in the wok. This will take around 8- 10 minutes (depending on size of pieces) and the caramel will coat the pork to give a dark, sticky, glossy glaze. When ready, sprinkle the thin slices of spring onion over the pork. Serve in heated bowls along with the rice and greens.

Vietnamese style caramel pork- a midweek winner!

Chinese lamb stir fry

Thinking of a midweek Chinese takeaway? Here is my version of a simple but moreish take on a traditional dish from Beijing. Chinese wood ear mushrooms are worth seeking it as there is no other variety like it.

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Ingredients- serves 4
400g lamb leg fillet
1 tsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 tsp cornflour paste
20g dried wood ear mushrooms
2 tbsp vegetable oil
8 spring onions- finely chopped
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 tbsp yellow bean sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

1. Slice the lamb fillets into delicate, thin pieces and place in a shallow dish or bowl. Mix the sugar, soy sauce, rice wine or sherry and cornflour paste and coat the lamb in it. At this stage, if you like a bit of a tingle then add 1/2 tsp ground Szechuan pepper to the dish, or alternatively drop in a couple of whole peppercorns for a more mellow hint and set aside to marinade for 30 minutes.

2. Soak the dried wood ear mushrooms in a bowl and leave for 25 minutes. The mushrooms will expand on size so make sure they have room! When they are ready cut into small pieces.

3. Heat half of the oil in a hot wok and stir fry the lamb for 1 minute. Remove from the wok and set aside. Take the remaining oil and add to the wok. Add the spring onions, ginger, mushrooms and yellow bean sauce (if using) and stir well to combine and fry for 2 minutes before adding the lamb back in to heat through.

4. Serve in a dish and drizzle over the sesame oil. I serve this with rice on the side and Chinese greens such as pak choi or tatsoi.

Try this recipe and you’ll soon forget about your local Chinese takeaway! Not a soggy prawn cracker in sight!