Pork spare ribs; gnawing at the bone

You have to be something of an animal to enjoy pork spare ribs. Enjoyment is gnawing away at fat and bones, ripping away tender meat, while the soy and pork fat drips down your chin. And enjoyment is dependent on you getting the best quality ribs — plenty of meat, mixed with just the right amount of fat and, naturally, the ribs of the female of the species.

Check your ribs before you buy, and make sure you are getting meaty value for money. There’s nothing worse than a rib with more fat than meat. And one more thing, before we get down to business. If you are frightened of fat, don’t read on. You might have a heart attack.

dozen ribs, sliced no thicker than 2cm

1 cup soy sauce

just under ½ cup honey

1 cup dry sherry — We used Mildara supreme dry, which seems just right for this, is the right price, and is just right for a chilled aperitif as well.

1–2 chillies
1 fresh bay leaf, split into pieces — We have a tree; if you don’t, a dry bay leaf is okay, or some fresh sage.

1 sprig of rosemary

a few sprigs of lemon thyme — If you haven’t any, use parsley, or coriander, or whatever fresh, flavoursome herb you can find.

1 walnut-sized piece of ginger, sliced finely

A stick of cinnamon, rubbed between your fingers — Cinnamon might seem a little unusual, but it works wonderfully here. When you are getting into the fourth rib, you suddenly come across this flavour, and mentally say to yourself: ‘Yikes, what’s that?’ It’s cinnamon.

1 small carrot, sliced thinly along its length


Bring the marinade ingredients to the boil, stirring to ensure the honey melts and doesn’t stick on the bottom. (This is easily done before you add it to the mixture, putting a little sherry and soy into the bowl with the honey and heating it through in the microwave.) Set aside to cool.


Pour over the ribs to cover. This is best done in a wide glass or ceramic bowl, so that all the ribs get the treatment. The marinade is best left overnight but six hours is adequate as well. If you can, turn the top to the bottom, so all pieces get a good sight of the juice.


Heat oven to 200°C. Put a little water into a baking tray and, inside it, or balanced on the edge, sit a grill or a cake rack, so you can replicate a barbecue in your oven. Of course you can do this on a real barbecue, but only on hot coals, not on a rich flame. All you will get from that is a carbonated mess.


Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning the ribs after about 15 minutes. They should be tender and juicy, and a deal of fat and marinade will have fallen into the drink below.


Bring a cup of strained marinade to a fast boil and maintain it for a minute of so, running a wooden spoon through it. Pour over the ribs and eat furiously with a white bib wrapped around your neck.


Steamed rice, or baked potatoes (or pumpkin), fluffed up and tossed with chives, are beautiful partners for this dish.

WINE: Chinese tea or a traminer from Alsace. Too many Australian traminers have an ‘oily’ character I don’t particularly like, but my favourites are from Delatite in Victoria and Flaxmans from Orlando.