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Recipe: Yunnan-style sweet and sour ribs

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About the recipe

Ribs cooked in this style are called tangcu paigu (糖醋排骨). Elsewhere in China they may simply be cooked in vinegar, sugar and soy sauce. Vinegar lends the sour flavor and copious amounts of sugar supplies the sweet. To add a southwest China flavor we incorporated Sichuan peppercorns and crushed red pepper for a bit of kick.

No oil is required to make this dish and beef ribs can be substituted for pork. Beef will be just as tasty but may require longer cooking times depending on the size of the ribs. This is an uncomplicated dish to prepare and pairs perfectly with steamed white rice.


1 kilogram pork ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups water
15 Sichuan peppercorns — also called prickly ash
½ cup rock sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 teaspoons aged white rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
crushed red pepper
small bunch fresh cilantro
sesame seeds


Over high heat bring the water, ribs and peppercorns to a roiling boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil for 20 minutes. Ribs are not a particularly tender meat. Boiling them for this long eliminates some toughness by infusing them with water.

When the water has almost completely evaporated and the meat is tender and juicy, add the vinegar and soy sauce and mix with the remaining water in the wok. Slowly pour in both sugars and make any adjustments — such as adding crushed red pepper — according to taste. Continue to heat the mixture on low heat while blending the ingredients with spoon. This will allow the sauce to thicken and may take several minutes. Continue to stir.

When the sauce has thickened to your liking, transfer to a serving dish, garnish with fresh cilantro and sesame seeds and serve with steamed rice. Serves 4-6. Enjoy!

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Cilantro = Coriander

Take care with those mouth-numbing prickly ash peppercorns!

made this the other day. It was pretty awesome ..a little more sweet than sour. If i was going to make it again, I would use more vinegar and less sugar!

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