Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs is a

Fried pork ribs recipe Chinese

Fortune cookie

The demise of the fortune cookie

While I was fine tuning this recipe and seeking inspiration, I've been working my way through Chicago's Chinatown, hitting the Asian groceries (deep fried guppies anyone?), and getting to know the local restaurant delivery boys.

Although the rib recipes varied quite a bit, one thing has been constant. Has anyone noticed that fortune cookies no longer tell a fortune? They no longer tell us what the future has in store for us. They no longer say "You will...", they say "You are...".

Sadly, fortune cookies now tell us meaningless aphorisms probably written by out of work speechwriters whose candidates have lost. Many "fortunes" even have smiley faces on them. A friend calls them "Proverb Cookies." And when did fortune cookie manufacturers start putting lottery numbers on them? Like the lottery is going to make me a fortune?

The only real fortune I have dug out of a cookie lately said, and I swear I am not making this up, "Within the coming 5 months you will find 3 missing socks." Alas, it's been at least a year. Never happened.

Here are some recent actual "fortunes" I've gotten.

  • "He who hurries cannot walk with dignity." Tell that to my wife.
  • "A happy family is important to you." I've seen better T-shirts. Like "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
  • "Preparation is important." Clearly stolen from the Boy Scouts.
  • "Fashion is temporary. Invest in Passion." Passion Communications is a privately held Canadian Corporations. Thanks a lot.
  • "Strength and sensitivity are not opposites." Maybe that's why I cry at sad movies."You find beauty in ordinary things. Keep this trait." Actually, this one came in handy. It saved my rock collection from my wife's garage sale.

I want to see fortune cookies that say things like this:

  • "Take the train tomorrow unless you want to ruin the new paint job on your car."
  • "Your tech stocks are going to tank."
  • "No need to water your garden next week. Get to know your neighbor, Noah."
  • "Make Chinese Five Spice Riblets tonight. and you might get lucky."

To make these bite-size finger foods as a perfect party dish, the ribs are cut in half lengthwise at the butcher. They are marinated and deep fried to a golden color. If you don't want to fry, they can be braised, roasted, and barbecued.

Braised Riblets. Braise them by simmering them in the marinade in a Dutch oven or covered pot for 1 hour.

Roast Riblets. Spread the ribles on a broiler pan or wire grate above a pan and bake at 225°F for 4 hours, turning them once.

Barbecue Riblets. Roast them on a grill using indirect heat at 225°F for 4 hours. Use the techniques described here for gas grill and here for charcoal grill. Skip the wood smoke, it"shes with the other flavors.


Yield. 24-28 half riblets

Preparation time. 15 minutes

Marinating time. 2-4 hours

Cooking time. Frying takes 5 minutes per batch and a total of about 30-40 minutes

The ribs

1 slab St. Louis cut spareribs (about 3 pounds). If you plan to fry the riblets, be sure to buy St. Louis cut spareribs because they are flat and baby backs are too curved to fry properly. Remember, St. Louis cut ribs have the rib tips removed. If you're not clear on the differences, see this article on the different rib cuts. Have your butcher cut the slab in half lengthwise with a bandsaw so that you have two mini slabs with bones that are only about 2-3" long. If you can't get this done by the butcher, cut the slab into individual bones and then cut them in half with a Chinese meat cleaver.


3 cups rice wine (you can use sake or any good dry white wine)

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar (or 1/4 cup distilled vinegar)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon corn starch

The crispy stuff

1/2 cup cornstarch

2 tablespoons ground black pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

2-3 cups peanut oil for frying

The garnish

1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted lightly in a dry 12" frying pan

3 scallions, chopped into rings

Do this

3) When you are ready to start cooking, place the cornstarch on a plate and mix in the five spice powder, ground black pepper, and sugar.

4) Remove the ribs from the marinade and drain them in a strainer or colander, but do not rinse or dry them. Save 1 cup of the marinade.

5) Make the sauce by taking one cup of the marinade, whisk in 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch mix, and heat it over medium flame until it thickens, burbles, becomes translucent, and turn it down to the lowest temp. This will take only a few minutes and you can do it while the ribs are frying.

6) Roll the ribs around in the cornstarch mix until lightly coated. Set them on a clean plate. If you have a deep fryer, get it out and fire it up. If not, in a large, deep skillet (preferably cast iron), or Dutch oven, pour in the peanut oil until it is about 1 inch deep. Heat the oil to 375°F. Use a thermometer. Add half the ribs to the pan, but don't crowd them. They shouldn't touch or else they won't fry properly. Fry the ribs in two batches until golden all over, about 5 minutes. Drain them for a few minutes on a cookie pan covered with paper towels. Keep the first batch warm in a 250°F oven while you are frying the second batch.

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