Saucy, sticky, glazy. A little Korean, a little Chinese. These Asian Pork Riblets were one of my favorites from Halmoni’s kitchen. Now they can be yours, too.
My Halmoni grew up in North Korea, near the Chinese border. Her father was a businessman who traded goods with China. He spoke Mandarin, hired Mandarin-speaking servants, and liked to eat Chinese food.
Living so close to the border, with a father who embraced non-Korean ways of living and thinking, Halmoni’s childhood was different from the other Korean girls of her time. Halmoni attended school (not just her brothers), wore modern Western clothes (instead of a hambok), and learned how to cook only when she got married.
Halmoni’s palate was also a mix of two worlds. She lived among Korean-speaking Chinese and Mandarin-speaking Koreans. She ate food from both cultures. Eventually, she became a grandmother who loved to eat and cook all kinds of fusion food.
Asian Pork Riblets was one of the dishes that Halmoni made for us on a semi-regular basis. Not exactly Korean and not exactly Chinese. Maybe a little bit of both? With soy sauce and ginger, brown sugar and vinegar, these Asian riblets were always a saucy, sticky, glazy favorite of mine!
Today, they are a favorite with my own kids. We eat Asian Pork Riblets with rice and sauteed leafy green veg. And also, kimchi. There’s rarely any leftovers.
What are Riblets?
Riblets are commonly found in Asian cooking. They are smaller than regular ribs, with a little bit of bone and meat attached to each bite. Riblets are actually regular-sized pork ribs cut across the bone into smaller chunks. Think of them as mini-ribs.
The smaller size of riblets make them perfect for weeknight cooking. They cook quickly and taste good with the Asian flavor base of soy sauce and ginger. Riblets are also small and nubby, perfect for picking up with chopsticks and eating with rice. They are fun to eat and very child friendly. My kids love to eat them!
- Pork Riblets. Rich and flavorful, they cook quickly into tender little nubs of pork.
- Ginger. The aromatic that prevents the pork from tasting and smelling too gamey and porky.
- Soy Sauce. Also known as Regular Soy Sauce or Light Soy Sauce, adds all kinds of umami depth and saltiness. Do not use the low sodium kind!
- Dark Soy Sauce. Thick and syrupy with more molasses flavor than regular soy sauce. Adds richness and also, great for the color!
- Rice Vinegar. Adds that tangy special flavor. Don’t forget to sprinkle a little bit at the end!
- Brown Sugar. Makes for a glazy, syrupy, salty-sweet sauce!
How to make Asian Pork Riblets:
Cut pork riblets into 2-inch sections, between bone segments. (You can find pork riblets at the Asian supermarket.) The riblets should be roughly the same size.
Heat 1 Tbsp neutral oil in large stock pot. When the oil shimmers, add ginger and stir until golden and crispy looking.
Add pork riblets and stir until slightly browned. Add soy sauce, dark soy sauce, 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, and brown sugar. Stir until riblets are well coated. Then cover and simmer on low heat until tender.
Remove lid and raise heat to medium. There will be a lot of liquid in the pot. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, leaving a sticky, saucy glaze.
Turn off heat and add remaining 1 tsp rice vinegar to riblets, stirring thoroughly. Serve immediately and enjoy.
Asian Pork Riblets
- 3 lbs Asian style riblets
- 3 inch fresh ginger thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar (regular white vinegar also works, if you don't have rice vinegar)
- 1/4 (packed) cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp rice vinegar (at end of cooking process)
- Cut pork riblets into 1 to 2-inch sections, between bone segments. They should all be roughly the same size. Set aside.
- Heat 1 Tbsp neutral oil in a stock pot over medium high heat. When the oil shimmers, add ginger and stir until golden and crispy looking, about 1 minute.
- Add pork riblets and stir until slightly browned, about 2-5 minutes.
- Add soy sauce, dark soy sauce, 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, and brown sugar. Stir until the pork riblets are well coated, about 2 minutes. Cover and lower heat to medium low. Simmer until pork riblets are tender, about 18-22 minutes. Stir about halfway through to make sure the riblets are evenly coated with sauce.
- Remove lid and raise heat to medium. There will be a lot of liquid in the pot. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, leaving a dark and sticky glaze, about 10-12 minutes. Turn off heat and immediately add remaining 1 tsp rice vinegar, stirring thoroughly.
- Serve immediately with rice and green vegetable of your choice. Enjoy!
If you liked this recipe, check out Easy Korean Recipes for more inspiration!