My mother, who is an incredibly talented cook, taught me that adding cornstarch is the trick to giving any watery sauce some thickness in most Chinese cuisine.
If you’ve ever been to Chinese dim sum, you’ve most likely had this dish before—Steamed Black Bean Spare Ribs. I can never say no to the simple yet magical combination of black beans and pork ribs. They are one of my favourite things to eat at dim sum, and I’ve learned to enjoy its saucy texture over the years. My recent craving for it had me running to the local TNT Chinese supermarket where I bought a bag of Chinese dried black beans to experiment. Little did I know it was so easy (and fast) to cook!
I’ll let you know that shopping for Chinese dried black beans was no easy feat. There were many brands to choose from and it didn’t help that I had heard of many horror stories about toxic chemicals and fake foods coming out of China. In the end, I went patriotic and bought one of the brands that originated from Hong Kong. Whichever one you purchase, make sure the black beans are dry and without sauce, if you are following my recipe.
Chinese dried black beans don’t look very appetizing, that’s for sure. However, what they lack in looks they make up in the intense salty fermented flavour. This ingredient is usually the main player in any dish that calls for it and a little bit goes a long way. I would also recommend trying these black beans with a bowl of plain white rice and a fried egg. Just thinking about this combination gets me drooling—once you try it, you will understand.
My mother, who is an incredibly talented cook, taught me that adding cornstarch is the trick to giving any watery sauce some thickness in most Chinese cuisine. One of the defining characteristics of black bean pork ribs is its thick saucy glaze, which is why this recipe uses a lot of cornstarch. If you don’t like this texture, you can dial it down by reducing this ingredient.
Black Bean Spare Ribs Dim Sum
YIELD: 3 servings (when served family style with rice and vegetables)
ACTIVE TIME: 10 minutes
TOTAL TIME (active + inactive time): 40 minutes
CREDITS: Frances Lam
- 1.5 lbs pork side ribs (cut into riblets)
- 1 tbsp cooking wine (I used shaoxing wine)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp sugar (I used brown sugar, although white is fine too)
- 0.25 tsp salt
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 4 tbsp black beans (dried)
- 2.5 tbsp corn starch
- 2 tbsp ginger (thinly sliced)
- In a mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients together except for the ginger. Transfer into a dish that you can steam (I used a stainless steel dish) and sprinkle the ginger slices on top. Steam for 25 – 30 minutes. The ribs are thoroughly cooked when the meat comes off the bone cleanly.
- If you don’t have a steamer, position a steam rack in a large wok and fill it with an inch and a half of water. Bring the water to boil and put the dish of ribs on the rack, covering and steaming for 25 – 30 minutes.