Saucy, sticky, glazy. A little Korean, a little Chinese. These Asian Pork Riblets were one of my favorites from my Korean grandmother’s kitchen. Now they can be yours, too.
My Korean Grandmother or 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.
Halmoni’s palate, like her father’s, was a mix of two worlds. 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 cooked on a semi-regular basis. Not exactly Korean and not exactly Chinese. Maybe a little bit of both? With soy sauce, 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 are rarely 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 makes 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 them!
- Pork Riblets. Rich and flavorful, they cook quickly into tender little nubs of pork.
- Ginger. The aromatic 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 dark, rich color.
- Rice Vinegar. Adds that tangy, special flavor. Add some at the beginning of the cooking process — and a little sprinkle at the end, right before serving!
- Brown Sugar. Makes for a glazy, syrupy, salty-sweet sauce.
How to make Asian Pork Riblets:
1. Cut pork riblets into 2-inch sections, between bone segments. The riblets should be roughly the same size.
2. Heat 1 Tbsp neutral oil in a large stock pot. When the oil shimmers, add ginger and stir until golden and crispy looking.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Turn off the heat and sprinkle the remaining 1 tsp rice vinegar. Serve immediately and enjoy.
Where can I find pork riblets?
Pork riblets are easily found at the Asian grocery store. If you can’t find them, substitute with baby back pork ribs. FYI they will take longer to cook.
What kind of cooking pot should I use?
A stock pot with a tight-fitting lid works best. The cooking process involves covering the riblets and cooking at medium-low heat so the riblets steam until tender.
Can I double the recipe?
Yes, this recipe easily doubles and triples. For my family of 5, I always make a double batch for dinner and pack leftovers into lunches the next day.
Why can’t I use low-sodium soy sauce?
You can certainly use low-sodium soy sauce if you like — but that’s not how the recipe was developed and tested. The final result will not taste the same.
Generally, I don’t prefer cooking with low-sodium soy sauce because the flavor is flat and somewhat lacking. Also, low-sodium soy sauce leaves behind a strange aftertaste. I prefer regular soy sauce, used in moderation.
For an easy dinner, serve with rice and kimchi. Or, add steamed vegetables or sauteed greens.
Other easy recipes:
- Gochujang Chicken Drumsticks
- Asian Glazed Salmon with Sambal Oelek
- Tuna Kimchi Fried Rice
- Korean Tornado Egg Omelette with Ginger Fried Rice
Asian Pork Riblets
- Large stock pot with lid
- 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)
- Prep riblets. Cut pork riblets into 1 to 2-inch sections, between bone segments. They should be roughly the same size. Set aside.
- Saute ginger. 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.
- Cook. 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.
- Reduce liquid. 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 remaininsprinkle tsp rice vinegar, stirring thoroughly.
- Serve. Enjoy with rice and green vegetable of your choice. Enjoy!