When I was a young, I would always ask for baby back ribs with pork and beans to be prepared. I loved grabbing the bone, eating the meat, and licking my fingers with the leftover sauce. It was a thrill for me and my friends because it was an informal way to get together and have a picnic, eating with our hands like cowboys in the old western movies. Even today, ribs are still one of my favorite dishes because they are easy to prepare and very delicious when cooked properly. As long as you know the basic principles and follow simple techniques in cooking pork ribs, you, your family and friends can enjoy some of the best ribs in town.
Buying the Pork
Baby back ribs are located in the loin area or the back part of the pig, extending from the shoulder all the way to the ham area (pork butt). It is one of the best cuts because the meat is tender with very little fat. The meat is soft because there is little movement in this part, unlike the hock and shank end, which is the legs where there’s a lot of muscle development, making the meat tougher. When buying pork, always look at the color of the meat: It should have a pale, pinkish color. The fat, if any, should be white and should have no foul smell. The texture should be grainy, similar to beef, and should not look soft and mushy. A dark, pink color indicates the pig killed is older. Avoid buying dark brown, foul-smelling pork because this means it is very old stock or worse, double dead.
Cooking the Ribs
There are many ways to cook ribs, but my favorite method is pressure cooking. When you turn on the heat, steam pressure begins to build up inside the pan, and this pressure helps tenderize the meat, giving a “fall-off-the-bone effect” similar to what you eat in restaurants. It also allows the marinade to enter the meat faster, saving you from marinating the meat overnight in the refrigerator. Marinade is a seasoned mixture of oil and acids, which tenderizes and flavors the meat, usually taking one hour up to eight hours in the refrigerator, with no cover. When buying a pressure cooker, always buy the biggest and thickest type, so it will last you a lifetime. To properly use the pressure cooker, simply mix all ingredients, place in the pan, close the lid, and put on top of stove. Turn on the fire to high heat and wait until the valve begins to give a hissing sound, and shake back and forth. Once you hear the sound, immediately adjust the fire to very low and start timing 30 minutes, as indicated in today’s recipes. After 30 minutes, turn off the heat and wait 15 minutes. Check the valve by placing a spoon under the valve; if you cannot hear any sound and there’s no visible steam, it is safe to open. Please do not wet the pressure cooker or place a wet towel over it while hot as this will destroy the rubber gasket inside. Follow these instructions — it will save you from changing the rubber gasket every other month. After removing the meat, place on a charcoal griller and cook until evenly brown. This will give a nice crisp outside texture with a smoky flavor while the interior will be tender and juicy.
Fall-off-the-Bone Oriental Pork Baby Back Ribs
2 whole baby back ribs of 10 ribs each (Ask Monterey Meat Shop at 40 Katipunan Road, St. Ignatius Village with telephone number 913-6933 to leave a 1/2-inch thick of flesh on ribs to total 2 kilos for this special order.)
3 cups pineapple juice
1 petal star anise (sangke or estrella)
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup honey or dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. rock salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 big head crushed garlic with skin on.
Put above ingredients in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook 30 minutes. Cool before opening the pressure cooker.
Drain. Save the broth to serve as sauce and for brushing pork. For every one cup broth, add 1 tbsp. cornstarch dispersed in 2 tbsps. water. Cook and stir until boiling.
Put baby back ribs over charcoal and cook until brown. If charcoal grill is unavailable, serve as is with cooked vegetables and rice.
Note: If pressure cooker is unavailable, cook in a deep pan. Use 6 cups pineapple juice plus other ingredients, turn to high heat. When it begins to boil, lower the fire, cover and time for one hour. The pineapple juice will help tenderize meat and give a rich flavor.
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Erns’ Top Five Baby Back Ribs
- Racks El Pueblo Ortigas: Truly fall-off-the bone that is complemented with a great marinade/sauce.
- Fireplace at Hyatt Hotel and Casino: A definite must-try, top quality meat cooked in wood burning oven; very nice tomato sauce. 5th floor, 1588 Pedro Gil corner MH Del Pilar, Malate.
- Tagaytay Highlands Steakhouse: Smokey exterior but juicy interior; cooked well.
- Outback: The marinade sauce is very rich, meat in between just right. Overall, a good place to find ribs. Ground floor, Glorietta 4, Makati City.
- Chilli’s: Has good sauce and a lot of meat in between the ribs. Value for money. Ground floor, Greenbelt 1, Makati City