Mom’s Best Braised Pork Spare Ribs

Braised Pork Spare Ribs

Today I will share my mom’s secret recipe for braised pork spare ribs! Well, it’s not a secret, but it’s our family’s traditional cooking method that is not so commonly used elsewhere.

I always bring my own lunch box to work. Every time I pack these braised ribs and heat them in the office microwave, my co-workers will blame me that the smell has gotten them super hungry (my bad!). My boss complimented me on it several times and finally asked for the recipe.

Although my mom has made this dish many, many times, she never cooked it using measurements, and thus I never had a recipe. The day my boss came to my desk and asked for the recipe AGAIN, I finally decided that I would write down the measurements next time my mom cooked it (read: to keep my boss happy and keep my job).

This dish is a very easy to make. You don’t even need to brown the meat, and you can still get great texture and flavor in the ribs. By simmering all the way through, the pork soaks up a complex savory flavor that is great with rice. At the end of simmering, the pork will be so tender that it easily falls from the bone.

The key is to add seasoning in two batches. At first, only add the ingredients which do not contain salt. Adding pungent herbs from the beginning helps eliminate the gaminess of the pork. On the other hand, adding salt too early will tighten up the pork and require a longer braising time. Always add soy sauce and salt when the braising is halfway finished, when the meat starts to turn soft but still has enough time to absorb the flavor and the saltiness.

Braised Pork Spare Ribs

There is one ingredient in this recipe that you might not be able to obtain easily outside of China – the red fermented bean curd. It’s a preserved tofu product cooked with soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil. Some people call it Chinese cheese, since its texture is similar with soft cheese and its taste is a bit stinky. In this recipe, I use red fermented bean curd to add a complex flavor to the sauce, which tastes a bit like Doubanjiang (Sichuan chili bean paste). There are two types of fermented bean curd, white and red. Those two have very distinct flavors. If you can’t find the red fermented bean curd or just don’t like its flavor, just skip it. The pork will still taste very nice.

If you cook a large batch of ribs, store the leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer. Every time you don’t have time to cook a main dish for dinner or need something yummy to fill your lunch box, pull some ribs out of freezer and you’re good to go!

(updated 14th Oct 2014) Later on, I decided to write down all the delicious family recipes, the ones passed down from my grandma. I created the “Mom’s Best” series and continue to add recipes to the collection. You can also find mom’s best beef stew with tendonMom’s best braised duck legMom’s best braised chicken stew with mushrooms and Mom’s best braised pork feet in the same series.

Braised Pork Spare Ribs

Mom's Best Braised Pork Spare Ribs
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
- Ask to have the pork ribs trimmed to short chunks when you buy them.
- Red fermented bean curd will add a very special flavor to this dish and is a very important ingredient in this recipe. But if you do not like the smell or you cannot find it, then leave it out and add a bit more salt to adjust the flavor.
- If you like your pork a bit sweeter, add 1 more tablespoon white sugar.
- I used a wok in this recipe, but you can replace it with a dutch oven.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 6-8
  • 1.8 kilograms(4 pounds) pork spare ribs, trimmed and cut into one-bone sections
  • 1 thumb of ginger, sliced
  • 20 grams (1 ounce) green onion, chopped into 2 to 3 pieces
  • 1 whole nutmeg seed
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 5 cloves
  • 1/4 cup Chinese Shaoxing wine
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 20g crystal sugar (or 2 tablespoons white sugar)
  • (optional) 2 pieces red fermented bean curd
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  1. Add pork spare ribs and water in to a large pot. The water should cover the pork. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then turn to medium low heat, and boil for 3 to 4 minutes. Skim the foam off the top with a spoon.
  2. Add boiled pork into a wok. Add boiled water from the pot to the wok until it covers the pork by about 2cm. You should used the boiling liquid only if you washed the ribs carefully at the beginning and the water looks fairly clear. If water is too cloudy, throw it away and use warm water around 40C (100F) instead.
  3. Add ginger, green onion, nutmeg, star anise, cloves, and cooking wine. Heat wok over medium high heat, until boiling, then turn to low heat. Cover wok and simmer for 40 minutes. Stir occasionally and be careful not to burn the pork on the bottom. If the water level goes below the pork, replace with hot water to keep the pork covered.
  4. Add light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, crystal sugar, red fermented bean curd and salt. Simmer for another 40 to 50 minutes, until pork turns tender and can be separated from the bone with a spatula. Taste one rib with some sauce after boiling for 30 minutes, and add more salt if necessary. Be careful not to over-salt, as the sauce will reduce more and turn more flavorful. At the end of simmering, stir frequently and keep scooping the pork from the bottom of the wok to coat all the ribs well with sauce.
  5. If the sauce is still thin and too watery by the time the pork has turns soft, boil on medium heat, uncovered, to reduce the sauce. Stay near the wok the entire time and stir frequently to prevent burning. The thickness of the sauce is flexible and depends on your preference. If you want some sauce to serve over rice, turn heat off earlier before sauce has completely reduced. If you want a thick sauce that coats the pork ribs well, reduce more thoroughly to reduce the volume.
  6. Serve pork ribs with white rice and enjoy!
Store pork in an airtight container in the fridge up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Recipe updated by 19th Sept. 2014



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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my Austin, Texas kitchen.

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5 thoughts on “Mom’s Best Braised Pork Spare Ribs

  1. Alika

    Hello Maggie!
    I’ve seen red and yellow fermented tofu in some stores where I live but could never get a clear answer when I asked the shop keeper how to use the ingredient (language barrier). Thanks to the internet and your website my curiosity is solved. But there is one last question I have. Do I mash the tofu or use it as is when adding to the recipe?
    Thank you, I’d like to try your Mom’s spare ribs very soon.

    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Alika, I’m so glad to hear you can find the fermented tofu and would like to try it out! This is quite unknown out side of China, but I like it a lot.
      To answer your question, you should mash it and add it to the broth. It should become a part of the sauce at the end of the cooking.
      You will probably have leftover tofu after making this. You can serve it with noodle soup and congee, to add saltiness to these dishes (like pinch a small piece of the tofu and eat with the noodles). It’s a bit like putting olive or cheese on top of a green salad. You can also use it in stir fried dishes, to add umami and saltiness. But Make sure to dissolve it with a bit water before adding.
      Happy cooking and let me know how the dish turns out 🙂

  2. Janie

    Oh god, Wangzhihe’ red fermented bean curd is so delicious. Called Fermented Rose Bean Curd for those looking for it.