Yunnan barbecue spare ribs with black vinegar sauce

This Asian-inspired dish is designed to be cooked outdoors on the barbecue then put on the table and shared - just the thing for a warm, sunny day. Just add a bowl of steamed rice and you're good to go.


  • 3 litres master stock (see below)
  • 2kg pork spare ribs on the bone
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 1 cup Chinkiang black vinegar
  • 2½ tbsp light soy sauce
  • 4 long red chillies, sliced
  • Handful coriander leaves

  • For the master stock (makes about 6 litres)
  • Peel of 1 orange
  • 225g rock sugar
  • 1 bottle Shaoxing wine
  • 1½ cups light soy
  • 6cm piece ginger, sliced
  • 10 cloves garlic, smashed
  • ½ bunch spring onions, chopped
  • 5 star anise
  • 1 cassia bark


For the master stock, use a paring knife and remove any white pith from the orange peel as this will impart a bitter flavour to the stock. Roughly crush the rock sugar using a mortar and pestle. Add all ingredients to 5 litres of water in a pan, bring to the boil, simmer for 30 minutes and then strain.

Bring master stock to the boil in a pot that can easily hold the ribs (cut racks in half if you need to). Add ribs to master stock and simmer until tender but still holding to the bone, for about 1½ hours.

Put sugar and ½ cup of water in a small saucepan over a medium heat.

Once sugar has dissolved, resist the urge to stir and instead gently shake and swirl the pan. Simmer until the mixture changes colour to a dark golden brown, then add vinegar and soy sauce, and bring to the boil. The sauce should have a mild burnt-sugar flavour.

Remove ribs from stock and, if you have time, leave in the fridge overnight to set. Separate ribs with a sharp knife.

Preheat a clean, well-oiled barbecue to medium. Cook ribs to heat through, about a minute each side – they will brown very quickly.

Arrange ribs on a serving plate, pour warm sauce over the top and garnish with chilli and coriander.

NOTES: Want something to drink?
Burn Cottage is one of the Central Otago region's most exciting producers and Cashburn is its second label, utilising the estate's younger vines. The 2014 pinot is an exuberant, fruit-driven style showcasing plums, blackberries, rhubarb and dark spices.

First published in the Good Weekend.

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