Pork Ribs with Black Bean Sauce

I don’t make pork ribs with black bean sauce very often, but when I do, I always wonder why I’m not making it all the time.

This saucy pork rib dish over rice is total comfort food and a perfect one-plate meal. Ribs with black bean sauce takes a little bit of time to get tender, succulent, fall-off-the-bone meat, but it’s very easy to make, and the first step can be done ahead of time! Please note that this ribs with black bean sauce dish is cooked and stir fried in the wok and NOT steamed. We have a separate recipe for steamed pork ribs with fermented black beans – the kind you find at Chinese dim sum restaurants.

What Are Chinese Fermented Black Beans? 

The black beans in “black bean sauce” aren’t the black beans you’d find in a can from the supermarket. They are Chinese fermented black beans, made from black soybeans. 

Pork Ribs in Black Bean Sauce Ingredients, thewoksoflife.comPork Ribs in Black Bean Sauce Ingredients, thewoksoflife.com

They have a salty bite and strong umami flavor. You can find them in Chinese grocery stores, and the good news is, they are very inexpensive! A one pound bag of them costs around $2! We like to say that they’re the biggest flavor bang for your buck at the Chinese market. 

I remember one of my teachers in high school telling me how she loved fermented black beans. She described it as looking and smelling strange, but fell in love with them after the first taste! Ribs with black bean sauce was one of the dishes I recommended to her.

Chopping Ribs Into Smaller Pieces

You can use any pork ribs for this dish––boneless country ribs, baby back ribs, or St. Louis-style ribs. If using bone-in ribs, you’ll have to use a cleaver to cut through the bone and make them into smaller pieces. You can also ask your butcher to do this for you.

Here’s a quick video demonstrating how to chop the ribs. Don’t try this with a regular chef’s knife. They weren’t meant to chop through bone, and you will probably chip your knife.

Instead, use a heavy Chinese cleaver. As you can see, the one I’m using is very heavy and thick. It was designed for chopping through bones like this.

Position a damp dish towel underneath the cutting board to create an anti-slip surface. It also serves as padding for your countertop, to help absorb the shock of the knife’s motion.

How We Used to Make This in Restaurants! 

Pork Ribs in Black Bean Sauce was on the menu at the first Chinese American restaurant I ever worked at in upstate New York. I can’t say that it was a super-popular dish, because back in the 70s, fermented black bean sauce wasn’t as popular as it is today.

After my father tutored me on my cleaver skills, I was tasked with chopping the pork ribs in bite-sized pieces. We used to make 10 orders of these ribs at a time. I would pre-cook the pork ribs for 30 to 40 minutes until tender, let them cool off, and wrap each order in plastic––ready to go when a customer ordered the dish. 

Which brings me to the next question you’re probably wondering about….

How Can I Make This Dish In Advance?

Excluding the initial effort of pre-cooking the pork ribs, I consider this a quick and easy dish.

You can use the same method we used at the restaurant to prep orders. Simply freeze individual or family-sized portions of pre-cooked ribs. That way, you can make pork ribs and black bean sauce quickly any time of the week.

All you have to do is the first step of the recipe (boiling lightly salted water and simmering the ribs for 40 minutes until tender). Then drain, allow them to cool, and freeze portions of the ribs along with the pork stock freezer bags and/or storage containers. 

Then simply take them out of the freezer the night before, or a few hours before you’re ready to cook. The final stir-frying of the pork ribs and the sauce is very quick.

Pork Ribs in Black Bean Sauce, thewoksoflife.comPork Ribs in Black Bean Sauce, thewoksoflife.com

On to the recipe!

Pork Ribs with Black Bean Sauce: Recipe Instructions

Bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add ¼ teaspoon salt. Add the ribs and simmer for 40 minutes, turning the ribs occasionally until they are tender.

Boiling pork ribs, thewoksoflife.comBoiling pork ribs, thewoksoflife.com

By the end of the 40 minutes, the liquid will have reduced quite a bit.

Simmering Pork Ribs, thewoksoflife.comSimmering Pork Ribs, thewoksoflife.com

Remove the ribs to a plate…

Removing boiled pork ribs to plate, thewoksoflife.comRemoving boiled pork ribs to plate, thewoksoflife.com

And pour the pork stock (the liquid you boiled the ribs in) through a fine mesh strainer. You should have 1 to 1 ½ cups of liquid. 

Straining pork stock, thewoksoflife.comStraining pork stock, thewoksoflife.com

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the smashed ginger, and fry until caramelized (15-30 seconds).

Smashed ginger in wok, thewoksoflife.comSmashed ginger in wok, thewoksoflife.com

Add the garlic, fermented black beans, onions, and peppers.

Onions, peppers, black beans in wok, thewoksoflife.comOnions, peppers, black beans in wok, thewoksoflife.com

Stir-fry for 1 minute, and add the pork ribs.

Adding pork ribs to wok, thewoksoflife.comAdding pork ribs to wok, thewoksoflife.com

Then add the Shaoxing wine

Shaoxing wine, thewoksoflife.comShaoxing wine, thewoksoflife.com

Next, add the pork stock (1 to 1 1/2 cups), and bring to a simmer. You can add more stock or water if you like your ribs saucy.

Adding pork stock, thewoksoflife.comAdding pork stock, thewoksoflife.com

Add the sugar, white pepper, sesame oil, soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. Stir and simmer for 2 minutes. Give the sauce a taste, and re-season if necessary. 

Simmering pork ribs in black bean sauce, thewoksoflife.comSimmering pork ribs in black bean sauce, thewoksoflife.com

Make sure the cornstarch is evenly mixed with the water, and pour in the slurry. For more details on using cornstarch slurry, see our complete article on how to use cornstarch in Chinese cooking.

Adding cornstarch slurry to thicken sauce, thewoksoflife.comAdding cornstarch slurry to thicken sauce, thewoksoflife.com

Stir to allow the sauce to thicken. If it’s too thick, add a little splash of water. If it’s too thin, add more cornstarch slurry. Toss in the chopped scallions.

Adding chopped scallions, thewoksoflife.comAdding chopped scallions, thewoksoflife.com

Serve with rice.

Chinese Pork Ribs with Black Bean Sauce, thewoksoflife.comChinese Pork Ribs with Black Bean Sauce, thewoksoflife.com


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