Salt and pepper pork ribs

• SERVES 4 •

We love salt and pepper moistened with lemon (or lime) and used as a dip. This combination is excellent with marinated deep-fried quail, a common dish in Vietnam. So feel free to substitute six butterflied quail here for the ribs – deep-fry them until they are golden on the outside and still a tad pink and juicy in the middle. As avowed porkaholics (and ribaholics) we love this version, which is uber-easy to make. You can use either meaty short or long ribs here.

1.2 kg (2 lb 10 oz) pork short ribs, cut into approximately 12 cm (4 3/4 in) lengths (ask your butcher to do this)
vegetable oil for deep-frying
250 g (9 oz/2 cups) cornflour (cornstarch), or as needed

1 teaspoon five-spice powder
21⁄2 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine
11⁄2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
5 garlic cloves, crushed

salt flakes
crushed white peppercorns
lemon wedges

For the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine well until the sugar has dissolved. Add the ribs and, using clean hands, toss to combine, making sure the ribs are coated all over with the marinade. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight, tossing the ribs occasionally.

Drain the ribs and discard any marinade.

Heat enough oil for deep-frying in a large saucepan until it reaches 170°C (340°F), or until a cube of bread turns golden in 20 seconds.

Toss half the ribs in the cornflour to coat well, shaking off any excess. Add the ribs to the pan and cook for 8 minutes or until the meat is tender and the ribs are crisp and golden on the outside. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Toss the remaining ribs in the cornflour then fry as above.

Put some salt flakes and a little white pepper in individual serving dishes and serve separately with lemon wedges for squeezing into the salt and pepper. Dip the ribs into this mixture before eating. 

East: Culinary Adventures in Southeast Asia
By Leanne Kitchen, Antony Suvalko