Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Spare Ribs (Suon Khia or Suon Ram Man) is a classic Vietnamese side dish. Without it (or a similar side dish), a Vietnamese home-cooked meal is incomplete. In this dish, the pork spare rib is slowly braised in coconut juice until fall-of-the-bone tender. The liquid is then cooked off at the end, reducing to a sweet and savory glaze. I enjoyed this dish very much as a child. Because pork spare rib was a luxury item back then, we didn't have this dish too often. When we did, we savored the the dish by gnawing on the bones and licking our fingers clean. Now, when no one's looking, lets be honest, I still do the same. Enjoy the video recipe up top and written recipe below =)
Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Spare Ribs Recipe
2 lbs pork spare ribs (have your butcher cut them against the bone into long strips so that you can cut them into bite-size pieces at home)
1 teaspoon salt for cleaning pork
1 medium size shallot (minced)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tablespoon pork stock powder
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon granulated sugar and additional 2 tablespoons for the caramel sauce
3/4 cup water or coconut juice
1 green onion (optional; thinly slice)
Fill a small pot with water (enough to cover the spareribs when added). Add salt. Bring the water to a boil. To the boiling water, add pork. Blanch the pork for 2-3 minutes. This will remove the impurities and off-smell of pork.
Drain the ribs in a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water.
Marinate the pork with shallot, garlic, pork stock powder, fish sauce, black pepper and sugar. Let the pork marinate at least 15 minutes (overnight in fridge for best results).
Add 2 tablespoons of sugar directly into a medium size pot over medium high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon to prevent burning. The sugar will caramelize, turning a dark amber color. Once this happens, quickly and carefully add the marinated pork (and all the marinade juices) into the pot and stir evenly to get the amber color onto the pork. The caramelized sugar may start to clump. Do not worry. The heat will dissolve the clumps of sugar back into the pot.
Add water or coconut juice and bring pot to a boil.
Cover the pot with a lid (a little off-center to allow for steam to escape), turn the heat to the lowest setting and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Occasionally toss the pork for even cooking. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue to simmer on low for 20 more minutes. The liquid in the pot will evaporate off leaving a shiny glaze on the pork.
Transfer the pork to a serving platter and garnish with green onion and a sprinkle of black pepper.