What are sweet and sour ribs?

Sweet and sour ribs are often sweetened with maple syrup.

Sweet and sour ribs are small cooked pork riblets with a sticky, sweet and sour topping. Popularly eaten in North America and Asian countries such as China and Vietnam, these tasty little pieces are usually enjoyed as a side dish in a buffet-style meal, as an appetizer, or as a finger food. There are seasoning variations in the recipes, but the cooking method tends to be the same.

Sweet and sour ribs can be found in some buffet-style meals.

This dish can be purchased at the grocery store or the butcher. The sweet and sour ribs are approximately an inch wide and come in strips taken from the side rib closest to the back. This cut is also called center-cut pork ribs. These long strips are then cut before cooking into individual bite-sized riblets, each containing a single bone.

The key to cooking sweet and sour ribs is to marinate them for several hours first, as this helps make them more tender and intensify the final flavors. Next, cooks place the ribs on a covered plate, in the oven or in the crockpot, along with the marinade, and leave for an hour on low heat. This will make the meat tender. If marinade is not used, it is necessary to add water to the dish to keep the ribs moist. Seasonings like bay leaf, ginger, and chives add flavor to the water and season the ribs.

After the ribs have been cooked for at least an hour, they are uncovered. Ribs being cooked in a marinade do not need any other ingredients. If they weren’t, the cooks would add the sweet and sour sauce at this point. The ribs are then cooked uncovered for an additional hour until the topping carmelizes and becomes sticky, covering the ribs. This process is also often performed in a wok; however, it’s important to make sure the ribs stay moist during cooking, as more moisture will escape into the air.

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The ingredients that give sweet and sour ribs their distinctive flavor can vary. The sweet element tends to come from ingredients like sugar, honey, and maple syrup. Sweet fruits like pineapples and oranges work, but they should be used along with at least one of the sweeteners mentioned above to get the proper sticky texture. The sourness of sweet and sour ribs comes from tamarind or vinegar and cider, rice or balsamic vinegar.

Additional seasonings often include garlic, ginger, and pepper. The onion and soy sauce also help to give this dish its characteristic flavor. Once cooked, the ribs are usually garnished with sesame seeds and served.

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