Pork Riblets Simmered in Caramel Sauce
(Suon Kho - Vietnamese)
Traditionally, the riblets were grilled over charcoal to sear in the flavors
before simmering. Ask a butcher to cut the ribs, as this is not an easy home project.
To remove the fat, the ribs may be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated. The congealed
fat can be easily lifted off the surface.
2 pounds meaty pork spareribs, cut crosswise through the bone into 2-inch-wide strips
1/3 cup minced, grated or pureed yellow onion (about 1/2 small onion)
Cut each rib strip between the bones or through the cartilage into individual
Combine the onion, sugar, pepper and 2 tablespoons of the fish sauce in
a bowl. Add the riblets, cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator
for at least 2 hours or overnight.
If necessary, adjust your broiler rack so that the ribs will cook as close
to the flame as possible. Heat the broiler for 30 minutes to get it nice and
While the broiler heats, take the ribs from the refrigerator and let them
sit at room temperature to take the chill off. Place them on a baking sheet
and broil until they're tinged brown, about 4 to 6 minutes per side; a little
charring is fine. (You'll hear a pleasant sizzle as this happens.) Alternatively,
cook the ribs over high heat on a gas or charcoal grill, which imparts deeper
flavor. The point here is to sear the riblets to obtain a roastiness and intensify
the overall color.
Place the riblets in a saucepan with the Caramel Sauce, the remaining 2
tablespoons of fish sauce and enough water (about 2 1/2 cups) to cover most
of the riblets. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and let
cook for 40 minutes; the ribs should simmer vigorously, sending steam out from
under the lid.
Remove the lid and continue to simmer until the ribs are tender (you can
easily pierce the meat with a fork or knife tip), about 20 to 30 minutes. If
there's cartilage, you should be able to bite through it, with a slight
crunch remaining. This latter phase of cooking allows the sauce to reduce and
concentrate in flavor, and deepens the color to dark reddish brown. In the end,
there should be a fair amount of sauce left.
Turn off the heat, tilt the saucepan so the liquid goes to one side and
use a spoon or small ladle to skim the fat from the top.
Adjust the flavors with extra fish sauce, if necessary.
Garnish with the chopped green onion and serve with lots of steamed rice.