When Kenny Rogers Roasters came to the Philippines, baby back ribs became an instant hit. I don’t know why it should be anything new. I had been eating barbecued pork ribs since I was a kid. Whether it was a fashion thing or not, all of a sudden, people were saying baby back ribs in lieu of the usual spare ribs and many pork vendors tried to pass off just about every kind of pork ribs as baby backs. They aren’t the same and it isn’t just a difference in terms — baby back ribs and spare ribs come from different parts of the pig. Amazing Ribs has an illustration.
Anyway, I was able to get real baby back ribs from Unimart last week. My intention was to cook the baby back ribs using the traditional teriyaki marinade then I discovered that I had neither mirin nor sake in the kitchen. The first thing I thought of substituting was red wine but I wasn’t sure if red wine would go well with ginger. I decided that gin would have to do. Nothing that I’ve cooked with gin had turned out disastrously so I figured it was my best bet. I wasn’t mistaken. No leftovers. Not even the sauce.
- 1 to 1 and 1/2 kilograms baby back ribs
- 1/2 cup light soy sauce
- 1/4 cup gin
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 10 to 12 button mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon tapioca starch or corn starch dispersed in 2 tablespoons of water
- 3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable cooking oil
- 1 tablespoo finely sliced onion leaves
Cut the baby back ribs along the meat part between the bones.
In a bowl, mix together the gin, soy sauce, sugar and grated ginger. Add the cut ribs, mixing and working the marinade into the meat with your hands. Cover and let sit in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.
Heat the cooking oil in a large shallow pan (I used a wok). Strain the baby back ribs; reserve the marinade.
Fry the baby back ribs in the hot oil just until a crust starts to form on the surface. The more accurate term would be until lightly browned but that’s kinda hard to discern considering that the ribs had been marinating in a very dark mixture for hours.
Pour in the marinade, add a cup of water, set the heat to the lowest setting, cover the pan and simmer the ribs for an hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms. If they are rather large, cut into halves or quarters.
When the pork is tender, add the mushrooms. Stir a couple of times and continue simmering for another five minutes.
Pour in the starch solution, turn up the heat and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thick and clear. Transfer the cooked baby back ribs, mushrooms and sauce to a serving platter and garnish with sliced onion leaves before serving.