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Today,  I am very pleased to have Diana Kuan of Appetite for China as a guest writer on Rasa Malaysia. Based in Beijing, Diana is a freelance writer and cooking instructor specializing in Chinese recipes; she has also written for The Boston Globe, Food & Wine, and other publications. Please welcome Appetite for China as she shares her recipe of spicy black bean spare ribs recipe with us.

In Chinese cooking, there are few ingredients more versatile than fermented black beans. You can use it to flavor steamed fish, eggplant, or one of my favorite Sichuan dishes, twice-cooked pork. It has a pungent, earthy aroma; a spoonful of black beans packs so much flavor you often don’t need additional salt. One way to use fermented black beans is to buy them whole, rinse them under cold water, and chop them up. Of course, it’s also easy to find prepared black bean sauce at a local Chinese market. My latest obsession is chili black bean sauce. I keep a small bottle in the fridge and pull it out whenever I need a reliable sauce at the last minute.

Have you ever had steamed spare ribs at a Chinese dim sum restaurant? Yes, those little juicy ribs in the bamboo steamer, covered with with a dark garlicky sauce that everyone’s chopsticks fight for. No matter how good they taste, have you ever wondered how much better they would be pan-fried, with a spicier sauce? These spare ribs take only 15 minutes to cook, and the ingredients require little chopping. The brown sugar add a tinge of sweetness to compliment the black beans and chili oil. And be sure to have rice handy; you’ll need it to sop up the addictive sauce.



Spicy Black Bean Spare Ribs

Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal


1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
1 1/2 pounds pork spare ribs, cut to 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium-sized leek, thinly sliced
White sesame seeds for garnish, optional
Thinly sliced scallions or leeks for garnish, optional


3 tablespoons spicy black bean sauce (or 2 tablespoons black bean sauce with 1/2 tablespoon chili oil)
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water


Mix together ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.

In a wok or frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add spare ribs and stir-fry until brown on all sides, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, and leeks and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Pour in sauce mixture. Cover with a lid and simmer for about 10 minutes. Sauce should be reduced enough to coat the spare ribs. Transfer to serving plate, garnish with optional sesame seeds and scallions, and serve with rice.

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