Braised Pork Spareribs with Bitter Melon (排骨焖苦瓜 Pai Gu Men Ku Gua）
November 19, 2022  Print
This bitter melon dish will probably be the last bitter melon dish for the year because the weather is getting chilly, even in Texas. Both bitter melon and spareribs work extremely well with fermented black beans. So when you combine all three together, the result is nothing short of amazing. The spareribs absorb the flavors from both the fermented black beans and the bitter melon, creating this complex umami taste.
Because this dish uses the braising method to cook the spareribs, it’s much more forgiving on the spareribs compared to steaming. In my previous post Pork Spareribs with Black Bean Sauce, it was important to soak the spareribs for about 2 hours to remove any remaining blood and impurities. But here with braising, you don’t need to soak the spareribs for such a long time because the ribs are cooked in a flavor-infused liquid. Thus, any residual blood taste will be masked by the liquid after braising.
I personally think the bitterness from the bitter melon is at a minimum after braising. But then again, I’m used to the taste of bitter melon. My husband thought the bitter taste was still there, when eating the bitter melon itself, albeit not as strong. He says you can barely taste any bitterness when eating the spareribs. My kids just ignore the bitter melon and only eat the spareribs. Everyone loves mixing the flavored sauce with white rice. My youngest is usually slow when it comes to eating rice (which you can quickly whip up in a pot), but he can finish a small bowl of sauce-infused white rice in no time.
Gluten Free, Low Carb
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1.5 hours
Servings: 2 – 4 people
- 1 to 1.5 lb cross-cut pork spareribs1
- 1 large or 2 medium bitter melons
- 1 tablespoon fermented black beans2
- 1 1-inch long piece of ginger
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves
- 1-1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce3
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 – 2 cups hot water
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Cut the spareribs into individual pieces. Make sure to cut the ribs along the meat part between two neighboring bones. Put the spareribs in a large bowl and fill with cold water. Soak the ribs for at least 30 minutes. Change the water at least once in between.
- While soaking the spareribs, prepare the marinade. Mince the fermented black beans. Peel and mince the ginger and garlic. In a small bowl, add the minced fermented black beans, ginger, garlic, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of light soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 2 teaspoons of sugar, mixing well.
- Rinse the bitter melon. Cut the bitter melon in half length-wise. Scoop out the seeds with a small spoon or huller. Then cut the bitter melon into 1-inch-long chunks. Set aside. In a small dish, add 1 tablespoon of corn starch and 2 tablespoons of water, mixing well.
- When the spareribs are done soaking, rinse with water and drain well. Add the spareribs and the marinade in a medium bowl, mixing well with your hands. Alternatively, mix them in a large ziploc bag. Marinate the spareribs in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
- Heat a medium-size dutch oven or wok under medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. When the oil is getting hot, add the spareribs along with the marinade and solids, stirring once or twice to heat all sides of the meat. When all sides of the meat change color from pink to brown (about 3 minutes), add enough hot water to immerse the spareribs. Scrape up any fond at the bottom of the pan and gently stir around a bit. When the liquid boils, cover the lid and lower the heat to medium low. Cook for 25 minutes.
- When the 25 minutes are up, add the bitter melon pieces. Raise the heat to medium and cook for another 10 minutes with the lid covered. Remove the lid and cook for another 5 minutes with the lid open. When the liquid reduces a bit, add the starch water little by little (make sure to stir the starch water again before adding). If there is not much liquid left, do not add any starch water. When the sauce thickens a bit, turn off the heat and transfer everything to a plate. Enjoy!
- Most Asian grocery stores carry cross-cut spareribs. Many western grocery stores carry it too. I’ve even seen them selling it at Costco.
- These fermented black beans or fermented soy beans are usually sold in vacuum-sealed plastic bags. Once open, seal and store in the refrigerator. If you can’t find pure fermented black beans, you can use bottled fermented black bean sauce.
- Use gluten free soy sauce or tamari if gluten intolerant.
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