This pork spare ribs with star anise recipe makes a wonderfully aromatic Cambodian style of pork ribs that you can tuck into on their own, washed down with cold beers of course, or you can serve as one of a number of dishes as part of a Cambodian family feast.
This pork spare ribs with star anise recipe is next in our series on the best Cambodian barbecue recipes, and it follows our previous recipes for smoky grilled pork ribs, marinated beef skewers and grilled eggplant with stir-fried minced pork and fermented soya beans.
This Cambodian-style pork spare ribs with star anise recipe is another one of our favourite pork ribs recipes and it makes a generous plate of fragrant mouth-watering ribs that you can tuck into on their own as you down some cold beers or you can serve them with a handful of other dishes if you’re preparing a Cambodian feast.
Along with our other barbecue and grilled ribs and skewers recipes, you might spot these pork spare ribs on the menus at simple neighbourhood eateries but you’re more likely to find them at a Cambodian restaurant or – if you’re so lucky – dished up in a local home.
We’ll be including this Cambodian-style pork spare ribs with star anise recipe in the epic first-of-its-kind Cambodian cookbook and culinary history that we’ve been researching, writing and photographing for the last six and half years, which we’re seeking patrons for on Patreon. You can support our project for as little as the price of a cup of coffee a month.
Pork Spare Ribs with Star Anise Recipe for Aromatic Cambodian Style Ribs
Everybody loves ribs and Southeast Asians are no exception. In fact, we’ve probably eaten more ribs, especially pork ribs, since we’ve lived in Cambodia – and before we moved here, in Vietnam and Thailand – than we’ve eaten in our lives.
You’ll find loads of different styles of pork ribs in every country, with many cross-overs, and many pork ribs recipes that have their roots in Chinese cuisine. Ingredients such as soy sauce, hoisin sauce, Chinese vinegars, and Chinese five-spice are giveaways. Cambodia’s home-grown ribs are marinated in a Khmer kroeung, herb and spice paste.
So what makes these ‘Cambodian-style’? For us, it’s the star anise and the palm sugar, and the simplicity of the ribs. Cambodian palm sugar that comes from just down the road in a village called Preah Dak or Pradak on the other side of Angkor Wat and the Angkor temples. The village is famous for its palm sugar and its fresh fermented rice noodles.
While star anise is native to China and grown right across Southeast Asia, it is a key ingredient of Cambodian cuisine (particularly Chinese-Cambodian cuisine), which is distinguished by its fragrances – like a lot of Southeast Asian cuisines, particularly the neighbouring cuisines of Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar.
Star anise also happens to be one of our favourite spices and we use it a lot in cooking. There’s star anise in the Chinese five-spice in my hot cross buns recipe. I also managed to get some star anise into this negroni recipe. Lara especially adores the aroma and flavour of star anise.
Star anise is also perfect with pork. You’ll find it in a lot of our favourite pork dishes, including my pan-roasted, brined and marinated pork chops, which Lara swears are the best pork chops in the world.
Notes on Cooking These Pork Spare Ribs with Star Anise
I only have a couple of tips for this pork spare ribs recipe as this is really a very easy dish to make and doesn’t need to be made unnecessarily complicated, which I note there’s a tendency to do in many recipes.
This pork spare ribs dish differs from our other pork ribs recipes as these ribs are steamed before marinating and barbecuing. For many of my pork recipes, I brine the meat before marinating, such as the pan-roasted brined and marinated pork chops I mentioned above, but for this pork ribs recipe, the steaming takes the place of the brining before being marinated.
I’m a huge fan of brining pork chops as they are consistently tender, juicy and delicious, however, a 24 hour brine is a long brine time for many cooks, despite the fact that many pork recipes require a commitment of time. A pork shoulder, for instance, could be marinated up to 48 hours. Steaming the pork is a great option for home-cooks who want faster results.
The marinade for this pork spare ribs recipe may appear basic compared to some that I’ve seen with long lists of ingredients, but you’ll find that it creates subtle flavours and aromas, along with a sweetness and a glossy sheen to the pork. What really makes this dish special is the fragrance, thanks to that star anise, and seasoning from the soy sauce, and it seriously does not need much more than that.
Pork Spare Ribs with Star Anise Recipe
- 500 g pork spare ribs should be 6 ribs
- 4 star anise pods
- 3 garlic cloves chopped
- 2 tbsp palm sugar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 4 tbsp light soy sauce
- Cut the spare into 2 pieces of 3 ribs. Make an incision between each rib of around 4-5 cm, keeping the ribs together. If there is a significant amount of fat at the thick end of the ribs, score the fat to allow deeper penetration of the marinade.
- Steam the ribs for 20 minutes and allow to cool.
- Heat a skillet and toast the star anise pods.
- Add these and the garlic to a mortar and make a paste.
- Transfer the paste to a container, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
- Add the ribs and coat with the marinade. Marinade the ribs in the fridge for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours for best results.
- As the ribs are cooked through already from the steaming, we just want to caramalise that marinade to get a glossy finish on the grill or BBQ.
- Place on the grill or BBQ over medium heat and turn frequently, using the leftover marinade to baste the ribs.
- Serve immediately.
Please do let us know if you make our Cambodian pork spare ribs with star anise recipe. We’d love to know how it turns out for you.