Today I’m going into full dad mode to educate you all about pork rib tips––as in the cut of meat and my recipe for fall-part tender, Chinese Takeout Style Pork Rib Tips!
What Are Rib Tips?
The rib tip is basically the section removed from the spare ribs when a butcher is making a more squared off cut. They are a less common cut, but are one of the best kept secrets of Chinese cooking!
They contain soft bones or cartilage, which, when cooked properly, are absolutely melt-in-your mouth DELICIOUS. And this isn’t an exaggeration! If you get this recipe right, you’ll see what I mean…
Many Chinese takeout restaurants have pork rib tips on the menu with a choice of rice––fried or plain, naturally. I remember my parents’ restaurant had Chinese BBQ rib tips with fried rice at the very top of the takeout menu, and it was no coincidence, because people would order this dish every night without fail.
The Keys to This Recipe
The key to making these pork rib tips delicious is twofold. First there’s the Chinese BBQ sauce. The secret is maltose, which really gives it that Chinese restaurant flavor and stickiness.
The second is baking them until they are f a l l a p a r t t e n d e r. What comes to mind is meat falling off a bone, but what makes these rib tips so special is the fact that all you get is the soft white bone and cartilage. It’s loaded with flavor and melts in your mouth.
Chinese people love tendon, cartilage, and chewy bits in general. Think, braised beef shank, chicken feet, pig feet, sliced pig’s ear, etc. etc.
It may sound unpleasant to some, but it’s one of the great, surprisingly luxurious textures of Chinese cuisine in my opinion! What’s more, for all the health-conscious folks out there, the soft pork bones contain loads of collagen for your skin as well as your joints! That tender pork belly skin in our Hong Shao Rou recipe? Go for it. It’s ~*~healthy~*~. (Just eat around the fat!)
Trimming Your Own Rib Tips
So where do you get these rib tips? Now before you all go running to the supermarket to buy this cut of meat (we may be ruining a valuable secret here…see oxtails and pork belly, which are now regrettably as expensive as they are popular), there are a few things you should know.
Usually you see pre-cut ribs in the supermarket––the long racks that are uniform in width. Unfortunately, these ribs already have the tips trimmed off. You’re looking for a full rack of ribs. You can see what I’m talking about in this photo of a full untrimmed rack of ribs.
There is a hard bone near the bottom of the rib and as you move up, the bones are soft cartilage at the top.
When you’ve gotten your hand on your untrimmed ribs, take a chef’s knife and cut down the length of the rib.
On the left is a trimmed rack of ribs, and on the right is the whole rib tip. In our kitchen, we use rib tips cut in chunks for soups like our Pork Rib Watercress Soup, and we also cut them into smaller pieces to make Dim Sum Steamed Pork Ribs with Fermented Black Beans.
You can marinate and bake these ribs whole, which I recommend, or cut them into smaller pieces. The recipe and cooking method is super easy and the results are DELICIOUS! Judy and the girls were going gaga over these ribs. The day we blogged them, productivity came to screeching halt because everyone was stuffing their faces with ribs and fried rice.
That said, you can serve these oven-baked Chinese Pork Rib Tips with plain white rice, vegetable fried rice, or any preferred fried rice (you can go full on meat lovers and make beef fried rice or pork fried rice to go with this). Enter the amazing world of the pork rib tip! Let’s cook!
Chinese Rib Tips: Recipe Instructions
Rinse the pork rib tips, and pat dry with paper towels.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the maltose with the hot water using a spatula. Maltose is VERY thick and sticky, so the hot water helps to loosen and liquefy it so it’s easier to work with and can serve as the base of your marinade.
You may mistake the stuff for super glue. You can use your hands to soften it faster, but a spatula works fine too. Microwaving the maltose for 10 seconds softens it up also. Working with maltose is admittedly a bit difficult, but the rich stickiness really makes it worth the extra steps!
If you can’t find maltose, we’d love to hear your kitchen experiments with honey or agave as substitutes in the comments!
Add the garlic, hoisin sauce, salt, sugar, five spice powder, Shaoxing wine, ketchup, and red food coloring, if using.
Next, add the rib tip pieces to the bowl, rubbing the BBQ sauce into the meat and ensuring that it’s completely coated. You can cut the rib tips into smaller pieces but I leave them whole to ensure they’ll be tender and juicy. Cover the bowl with a large plate or plastic wrap and let the rib tips marinate overnight in the refrigerator (12 to 24 hours).
After the ribs are marinated, remove them from the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, letting them come up to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a sheet pan or roasting pan with parchment paper or non-stick foil to prevent the ribs from sticking to the pan. Place the two slabs of rib tips on the pan…
Cover with foil, and place them in the oven. Save the marinating liquid for basting.
Bake the ribs for 30 minutes, baste them, turn them over, and baste again. Cover again with the foil. Return them to the oven and reduce the temperature to 275 degrees F.
Repeat the process two times––that’s 60 minutes of additional cooking time. After 90 minutes in the oven, baste again, and return to the oven uncovered.
Baste the ribs every 20 minutes for another hour until done. At this point, if you like a slightly crispy bark on the rib tips, increase the oven temperature back to 325 degrees F for the last hour. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan around the perimeter of the rib tips if it starts to dry out and burn.
Carefully transfer the rib tips to a cutting board. I wasn’t kidding when I said they would be fall-apart tender!
Slice into bite-sized pieces, and serve with your favorite fried rice or plain white rice.