Whenever Matt and I travel to another city, one of our top priorities is always Find The Chinatown. Every success has richly rewarded us with a delicious meal, and occasionally we’ll conclude that the Chinatown meal was one of the best of the trip. All this hunting may seem silly seeing as we live in a city that boasts not one but two huge Chinatowns (and I somehow managed to live in New York for about five years before I found out about the second one. It’s okay to judge me; I judge me), but I suppose the heart (or in this case the stomach) wants what it wants.
While I do love the bustling, crazy enormity of New York’s Chinatowns, particularly the Manhattan locale, I’ve found that the smaller ones grab me more. My hands down favorite is London. The neighborhood restaurants specialize in duck, and that meal was one of the best I’ve had in my life. (They took a Peking duck, chunked up the meat, then coated it in egg whites and deep fried it, then coated it in some kind of sauce I’d never tasted before. No words for it.)
I also had quite a memorable trip to Boston’s Chinatown, where I ended up attending the University of Humiliating Hard Knocks, majoring in White Girl Doesn’t Know How to Properly Use Chopsticks when I ordered a whole duck leg in broth. Delicious, don’t get me wrong. Also, an embarrassing mess.
I think next time I should stick to ordering these classic Chinese lacquered ribs, which don’t require chopsticks, thus saving my dignity, and my lap! Or, I can practice my chopsticks skills more; or I could just make these at home. The code has been cracked (thank you Steven Raichlen!) – these are authentic and easy and just all around incredible. A wonderful trip down our Chinatown memory lanes. Enjoy!
Source: just slightly adapted from Ribs, Ribs, Outrageous Ribs by Steven Raichlen
½ cup hoisin sauce
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp Chinese five-spice powder
¼ cup soy sauce
2 ½ tbs Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 ½ tbs Asian dark sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and gently crushed
3 slices fresh ginger, peeled and gently crushed
2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts divided
1 rack pork baby back ribs, trimmed
Place the hoisin, sugar, and five-spice powder in a nonreactive mixing bowl and whisk to mix. Add the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, and sesame oil and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and scallion whites. Set one-third of the marinade aside to make the sauce.
Place the ribs in a nonreactive roasting pan or baking dish just large enough to hold them. Pour the remaining marinade over the ribs and spread it all over the rack with a spatula. Turn to coat both sides. Let the ribs marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and as long as overnight, turning them 3 or 4 times. Alternately, you can marinate your ribs in a large resealable plastic food storage bag.
Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. Place a drip pan in the center of the grill under the grate.
When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Drain the ribs well and place them in the center of the grate bone side down over the drip pan and away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook the ribs until dark brown and very crisp on the outside but tender inside, 1 ½ to 2 hours. When the ribs are done, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about ¼ inch.
Meanwhile, transfer the reserved marinade to a nonreactive saucepan, let come to a gentle simmer over medium heat, and cook until thick and flavorful, about 3-5 minutes. Let the sauce cool to room temperature, then strain it into a bowl. In the last 15 minutes of cooking the ribs, baste the meat side with some of the sauce to let it laquer up while they finish cooking.
When the ribs are done, transfer them to a cutting board and let rest a few minutes. Use a serrated knife to cut the rack into individual ribs. Brush with a little more of the sauce, then sprinkle the scallion greens on top for garnish. Serve immediately with the reserved sauce.