Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs

In China, people often distinguish themselves as Southerners (南方人) or Northerners (北方人). It’s a question you’ll get often in taxis or first meetings.

The biggest distinguishing features for us, anyway, are the regional cuisines. Southern cuisine is roughly more delicate, refined and sometimes sweeter in taste, while northern cuisine is a bit heavier and stronger in flavor. In the south, rice is the staple, while in the north, it’s all about the bread (mantou, pancakes, etc.) and noodles.

Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs (tang cu pai gu, 糖醋排骨) is a signature southern dish. The delicate balance of the soy sauce, sugar and vinegar makes this dish a very popular appetizer, which is often served cold.

Appetizers in China are usually called “冷菜,” which translates to “cold dishes.” They’re all served cold or at room temperature, and there’s a vast variety of different kinds.

While I was making this dish today, I tasted it when it was hot, and it was GOOD. But we had it for dinner at room temperature, and it was astonishing how the temperature changes and intensifies the flavor.

I don’t mean to pat myself on the back, but this tang cu pai gu recipe exceeded my own expectations by a mile.

Usually, this Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs (tang cu pai gu) dish is made with rib pieces about 1-inch to 2-inches long. You can definitely ask your butcher to help with this, or you could even use baby back ribs. There are really no rules.

Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.comShanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.com

Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs: Recipe Instructions

Rinse the ribs and pat them dry with a paper towel. Marinate the ribs with 1 tablespoon light soy sauce and 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine for 15 minutes.

Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.comShanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.com

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a flat bottomed pan over medium heat and brown the ribs on all sides. Set aside.

Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.comShanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.com

Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.comShanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.com

Heat another tablespoon of oil in a clean wok over medium heat, and cook the ginger and scallions until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.comShanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.com

Take them out of the wok and set aside. Add another tablespoon of oil, and with the wok on low heat, add the rock sugar. Stir and let it melt.

Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.comShanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.com

Add the ribs and coat them with the melted sugar. Turn off the heat.

Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.comShanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.com

Add the second tablespoon of Shaoxing wine, dark soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, water, and the cooked ginger and scallion.

Turn up the heat and bring everything to a boil. Then cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

After 30 minutes, if there’s still too much liquid in the pot, take off the lid and turn up the heat, stirring continuously until the sauce has thickened and the ribs are coated and sticky.

It’s best to serve these ribs at room temperature. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired.

Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.comShanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.com

Mix the sauce with some rice, top with a couple ribs, and you’ll have heaven in a bowl. Enjoy, and remember to share!

Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.comShanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.com

Shanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.comShanghai Sweet and Sour Ribs, by thewoksoflife.com

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