These ribs may be marinated in Chinese black vinegar but they are a far cry from the tough, chewy spareribs often found in Chinese restaurants. Rather than giving a Chinese flavour the vinegar gives intensity to the marinade and the glaze, and it tenderises the meat gorgeously. A feast. And one to be shared with people who you don’t mind having sticky fingers with.
Ask your butcher to prepare the racks by removing the thin film of membrane on one side. Or you can do yourself by using a knife to lift up one edge and peeling it off. Note that these are racks of spare ribs from the loin of the pig, not from its shoulder.
Sticky pork ribs marinaded in black vinegar, muscovado and spices (serves 4)
For the marinade:
juice of an orange
4 tbsps chinese black vinegar
6 tbsps dark muscovado sugar
1tsp English mustard
1 tbps ground fennel seeds
3/4 tsp ground cloves
2 racks of pork spareribs, cut in half to about 5 or 6 ribs per portion
4 bay leaves
4 sprigs of rosemary
5 cloves of garlic
1. Juice the orange and keep the fruit’s outer shells. Add to the juice the rest of the marinade ingredients with a good pinch of salt. Mix well to combine.
2. Sit the rib racks in a roasting tin. (You might need to use two, depending on the size of your racks and tin. If you do just make sure everything you do is evenly spread across both tins and all the racks.) Rub the marinade all over the racks and sit a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary under each portion. Cut the reserved orange shells in half and put those into the tin too. Set aside for 5 hours, turning the ribs over in the marinade a few times.
3. Preheat the oven to 150C. Put the whole, unpeeled garlic cloves alongside the racks. Roll them in the marinade. Cover the tin and bake for 21/2 hours, basting the racks twice.
4. When the racks are tender, dig out and discard the orange shells, garlic, bay and rosemary. Turn the oven up to 190C.
5. Use a pastry brush to spread the marinade that is in the base of the tin all over the racks. Return to the oven for about 25 minutes to get sticky, turning the racks twice.
6. When the racks are a deep glossy, sticky, rich brown colour take them out and let them cool down before serving. You need to be able to hold them to satisfyingly rip the ribs apart.