Pork Spareribs with Black Bean Sauce (Instant Pot)
April 10, 2021  Print
Pork Spareribs with Black Bean Sauce (豉汁蒸排骨) is a pretty famous Cantonese dish. I first tasted it at a dim sum table as a child. I was instantly hooked. The savory spareribs had a unique complex umami flavor combined with a fall-off-the-bone tenderness. It became my top choice at any dim sum table and it has yet to disappoint!
Don’t be alarmed by the amount time it takes to prepare this dish. It actually requires very little active time. The vast majority of the time is spent soaking the spareribs in cold water to remove any residual blood. The rest of the time is split between marinating the spareribs and steaming them. So as long as you start early, you are already halfway there.
I actually didn’t start making this dish until much later in my cooking journey. I think I was a little afraid because I didn’t want to fail and ruin its perfect taste in my memory. And it did take me a few times to get my version to my level of satisfaction. Here I’m sharing all my tips with you so you can get it right the first time and enjoy this wonderful dish.
First of all, be patient! Don’t skip soaking the spareribs in cold water. It is probably the most important step in this recipe. Soaking will help to boost the taste significantly. Trust me, I’ve made versions of this dish where I only soaked the spareribs for 30 minutes and I could definitely taste the difference. Spareribs have much residual material left in the bones. When the spareribs are under-soaked, much of the blood remains inside, and that puts a huge damper on the taste. The resulting under-soaked version has a gamey taste that is not nearly as fragrant and fresh. When the spareribs are soaking appropriately, the water should be mostly clear and the ribs should have a whitish pink appearance (see pictures below).
Secondly, get some real fermented black beans (豆豉). I mentioned in a previous post, Salmon With Black Bean Sauce, about this unique culinary antique treasure that dates back two thousand years. Most Asian grocery stores carry some form of fermented black beans. Look closely because the packages are usually not very glamorous. These fermented black beans need to be chopped to small pieces before mixing with garlic and ginger to fully release their umami.
Lastly, use an Instant Pot (I currently use the Instant Pot DUO60 v3) to steam the spareribs. Steaming spareribs in an Instant Pot not only saves time, but the ribs come out so tender that they easily fall off the bones. And, the best part is that steaming takes very little pressurization cooking time (normally with an Instant Pot, it takes a while for the pot to be fully pressurized before the actual cooking beings). With steaming, it takes under 5 minutes for the timer to start counting down. If you don’t own an Instant Pot,however, don’t fret. You just need to be a little more patient and use a regular steamer. With a regular steamer, the ribs will be ready in about 45-50 minutes. I would be skeptical of some the recipes that tell you to steam for only 15-20 minutes. While the spareribs might be safe to eat, they will still be very hard and chewy at that point. I prefer my spareribs to fall off the bone!
Preparation Time: 2.5 hours (including 2 hours of soaking time)
Total Time: 3 hours
Servings: 4 people
- 1 lb (~450g) cross-cut pork spareribs1
- 1 tablespoon fermented black beans2
- 1 1-inch long piece of ginger
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/4 teaspoon table salt)
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce or light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon oyster sauce3
- 3 tablespoons corn starch or other type of starch
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 or more fresh red chili peppers4
- 2 green onions
- Cut the 1 lb (~450g) of spareribs into individual pieces. Make sure cut the ribs along the meat part of the spareribs in between two bones. Put the spareribs in a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of corn starch, then begin filling the bowl with tap water until the spareribs are fully immersed in water. Use both hands to lightly massage the spareribs and let the starch water draw out any surface blood and grime. Let the spareribs soak in the starch water for about 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, pour out the starch water. Rinse a few times, then fill the bow all the way up with tap water. Let the spareribs soak in water for about 2 hours. Change the water at least twice in between. After the spareribs are done soaking, the water should be clear, and the spareribs should look whitish pink since most of the residual blood will have been drawn out.
- 10 minutes before the spareribs are done soaking, prepare the marinade sauce. Chop the fermented black beans into small pieces. Peel the ginger and garlic cloves. Mince both the ginger and garlic into fine pieces. Put the black beans, ginger, and garlic pieces in a small mixing bowl. Then add 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce, mixing well. Set aside.
- Pat the spareribs dry with a paper towel and put them in a medium bowl. Add the marinade sauce prepared in the previous step to the spareribs, mixing thoroughly. Wrap the top of the bowl and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. You can also store overnight so it’s ready the next day.5
- While waiting for the spareribs to marinate, chop the red chili peppers and green onions into small pieces. Set aside separately.
- When the 30 minutes are up, take the spareribs out. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of corn starch, using one hand to gently mix the starch with the spareribs.6 Transfer the spareribs to a plate with some depth, covering the plate with one layer of spareribs. Then evenly drizzle the 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil on top of the spareribs, attempting to cover most of the surface.7 Sprinkle the fresh red chili peppers on top.
- In the Instant Pot, add 1 and 1/4 cup of water. Then put the steamer rack in the Instant Pot. Finally put the plate with the spareribs on the steamer rack. Cover the lid, making sure the valve is in the”Sealing” position, and not the “Venting” position. Press the “Steam” button and change the timer to 20 minutes.
- When the Instant Pot is done cooking, it should switch to the “Keep Warm” mode automatically. You can use a utensil to manually switch the valve to the “Venting” position to let out the steam. (WARNING: Never use your hand to turn the valve as the steam will be hot. ALWAYS follow all safety instructions that come with your particular Instant Pot.) Optionally, if you are not pressed for time, wait until the Instant Pot naturally releases pressure. No matter the method, be sure to wait until the little floater next to the valve drops down, indicating the pressure has been released, before opening the lid.
- Remove the lid and turn off Instant Pot. Carefully transfer the black bean spareribs out of the Instant Pot. Sprinkle some green onions on top and enjoy!
- You can find this type of spareribs in most Asian grocery stores. American stores such as Costco, H-E-B, and Kroger often carry this cut as well. Ideally, the cut should be relatively narrow, resulting small sized spareribs.
- 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. Because the bottled fermented black bean sauce usually has soy sauce, garlic, or chili pepper mixed in, reduce the salt amount for this recipe by half.
- You can get oyster sauce from any Asian grocery store. Some common brands are Lee Kum Kee , Haday, and Kikkoman. If you want the ultra fancy one, try the MegaChef Oyster sauce.
- Depending on your heat tolerance, you can add any kind ranging from mild all the way to super hot.
- By marinating the spareribs overnight, this dish can be prepared ahead of time, which is great for dinner parties.
- I recommend using one gloved hand to gently mix the starch with the spareribs. Starch adds smoothness to the spareribs.
- Drizzling a thin layer of oil on the spareribs help to seal the moisture and flavor inside the spareribs.