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Lemongrass Pork Ribs

Lemongrass is a tropical, grassy plant that grows easily and has a long list of properties. It almost looks like an overgrown clump of weeds, but is an essential part of the Asian herb garden. It is hardy and thrives best in the hot and humid climates of its South and South East Asian native habitats. Playing hide-and-seek in our garden as children, the lemongrass bush was not something we ever chose to hide behind because the blades are razor sharp. That's why they're called blades?

Here in France, lemongrass or citronella is most often associated with its mosquito-repelling properties. Citronella-scented candles and essential oils line shelves of supermarkets or pharmacies. I much prefer to cook with the fresh plant. We use the lower bulbous white portion of the stem in cooking many varieties of savoury dishes, especially curries. Sliced, then pounded or blended, the lemongrass adds a note of fresh citrusy fragrance. In this dish it is only one layer of the many delightful flavours of this dish.

It is simple to make, although the cooking time may be long. You just throw everything into the pot and leave it to simmer. Some like to cook the sauce down to a thick consistency, almost caramelised. You can tweak and adjust this to suit your preferences. Like it spicier? Add more chilly. Have a thing for the sour? Add more vinegar.

The chilli paste can be homemade with dried chillis, but you can find them easily in supermarkets (even in small French town supermarkets).

I find it best to make this in advance and refrigerate it overnight as its so much easier to then remove the layer of fat which has risen to the top. And by then, all those flavours have become more intensified, more complex, richer, just yummier overall. It is such a perfect marriage of flavours and yet surprising somehow. Excuse me while I salivate.

Be sure to make lots of plain steamed rice, this dish really whets up your appetite.

The great thing about this dish is that you can tweak it to suit your taste - there is a complex mix of sweet, sour, spicy with that wonderful citrusy lemongrass flavour going on here. You can up any of those notes by adjusting the chilli or the vinegar or the sugar.

Ah Ma is grandma in the Hokkien dialect and was what my children called their late grandmother. The biggest fan of this dish when my mother used to make it was my younger daughter, who was not yet three when she became initiated!

Make this ahead of time, cool and refrigerate it overnight then take it out the following day and remove the layer of fat on top. Not only does it make it easier to remove the excess oil, but the flavours are so much better.

Lemongrass Pork Ribs - Ut Sui, Ah Ma’s very Special Pork Ribs in Vinegar and Lemongrass


serves 4

Prep Time 15 mins/Cook Time 1.5 h/Total Time 1h 45mins

Ingredients to be blended or pounded:

  • 4 lemongrass (white part only)

  • 6 shallots

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 1 onion

  • 2 tbsp chilli paste

Other ingredients:

  • 1.2 kg pork ribs, cut along the bones

  • 3/4 cup (app 185 ml) rice vinegar

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar

  • 3 tbsp dark soya sauce

  • 2 tbsp light soya sauce

  • 1 to 1 1/2 (250 to 310 ml) cup water

  • salt and pepper


  1. Blend lemongrass, shallots, garlic, onion and chilli paste with 3 tbsp water.

  2. Put a large pot of water to boil. Blanche the ribs quickly for two minutes to get rid of impurities. Strain, discard water, rinse the ribs.

  3. Put the ribs in a heavy bottomed pot with the blended paste and all other ingredients. Top with water to cover the ribs, mix well.

  4. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and allow to simmer gently until the meat is almost falling off the bone, about an hour and a half or longer. Skim layer of fat off or leave to chill in fridge overnight, then remove before re-heating.


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