I first improvised this dish of pork spare ribs with an Indian masala late last summer. I’ve been trying to post it on the blog ever since but you bastards kept shooting it down in the recipe selection poll. Finally, its time has come. I have to admit that a benefit of the delay is that I’ve made it a number of times since and have got the recipe tweaked now to a point that we all really like. Until I started making this I’d always assumed frying spare ribs was difficult. But it’s not and they cook up very quickly. The toughest thing may be finding spare ribs. Are they sold by themselves in the meat sections of grocery stores? I don’t remember seeing them at our local Cub Foods, not that I’ve looked for some years. We buy our pork in bulk from small farms in the area and there’s always a pack or two of spare ribs in there. Anyway, if you can find spare ribs, give this a go.
- 2-2.5 lbs of pork spare ribs, cut lengthwise into separate ribs, each with some meat on it.
- The following ground to a coarse powder: 1 tspn cumin seeds, 1 tspn coriander seeds, 1 tspn black peppercorns, 2-3 Kashmiri chillies
- 1 tspn freshly pounded garlic
- 1/2 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
- 3 tblspns Chinkiang vinegar [affiliate link] or balsamic vinegar
- 1 sprig’s worth of curry leaves
- 5 hot dried chillies
- 1 large red onion, thickly sliced
- 1 tspn freshly grated ginger
- 1 chopped Thai chilli
- 1 cup + 1 tblspn oil (choose one with a high smoke point)
- Make a coarse paste of the ground spices, the garlic, haldi, a bit of salt and the vinegar and mix thoroughly with the ribs, turning to coat each one well. Marinate for at least two or up to two days in the fridge.
- Remove from the fridge an hour or so before ready to cook, so as to bring the ribs to room temperature.
- Add the cup of oil to a large wok over medium-high heat and when it is hot (before it starts to smoke), fry the ribs 6-8 at a time, for 3 minutes on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels till you have finished frying all the ribs.
- Pour the frying oil out carefully into a heat-proof bowl and make sure to get all the charred, crispy bits out as well.
- Wipe the wok clean with a paper towel and heat the remaining tblspn of oil over medium heat.
- When the oil is hot add the dried red chillies and the curry leaves. Stir for 30 seconds or so (don’t let the chillies burn).
- Add the onions with some more salt and saute vigorously for 5-7 minutes until the onions have softened and begun to brown.
- Add the grated ginger and chopped Thai chilli and saute for another minute.
- Dump the fried ribs back into the wok, stir/toss to mix thoroughly with the onions and stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes.
- Plate, garnish with the cilantro and serve with steamed rice and chholar dal.
- You can vary the proportions of the masala in the marinade as you like. I sometimes make it with more cumin; sometimes I also add a tiny bit of Sichuan peppercorn.
- For more heat you can use hotter dried chillies in the masala as well. I don’t partly so my kids can eat this more easily but mostly because I prefer to not make this too hot anyway.
- If you don’t have Chinkiang vinegar or balsamic vinegar, white vinegar will work too.
- To check if the oil is hot enough drop a very small piece of onion into it—if it sizzles you’re ready to go.
- Three minutes a side when first frying the ribs is a good rule of thumb—but of course this depends on how hot your oil is. Turn one over with tongs at that point and see what it’s looking like on the bottom. If nicely browned and crisped turn them over. If not, go another 30 seconds and check again. And don’t let the oil get too hot either before you add the ribs or while frying them.