March 19, 2010

The Grand Finale

Today, our Hawaiian journey comes to an end.  Time to pack up your bags and head back home to oven cooked risotto cupcakes and Moroccan lamb. What?  That’s not what you’re planning to make next week?  Cause I am.

But before we close out this chapter of our low sodium Hawaiian adventure, I have one last recipe that will really set your tongues wagging and heart racing.  Low sodium, Char Sui Spare Ribs.  This is that illustrious, unnaturally colored Chinese pork meat that always sends a pang of jealousy my way.  Whenever Boy and I take a shopping excursion to Ranch 99, he buys a container full of the stuff.  Some is nibbled on while driving back home and the rest is frozen for nights that require a quick, ad hoc entree with noodles or rice. The pork always looks juicy, often still steaming from hours in a hot pot or oven.  But alas.  That hot pink color, from fermented tofu, is a strong sign of way too much sodium for this little body.

As with all recipes, however, changes can be made.  And while you should stay away from this meat at your local Hawaiian BBQ spot, do not be afraid to recreate it at home.  First, who said it had to be pink?  Lop off a good chunk of sodium content and leave out the fermented tofu.  If you really want to make an “identical” version, go ahead and use a few drops of red food dye.  But you do not need it.

Second, forget the dark soy sauce and Hoisin sauce and replace with molasses.  After that, the original recipe can be followed ingredient by ingredient.  I did take some extra liberties though, and added orange juice and cayenne.  If you are worried that we are diverging too far from the original, I”ll tell you this.  Those fusion foods you love so much have all been built around twisting the mold of a traditional recipe.  When you add a few ingredients and leave a few out, suddenly that Char Sui dish is yours.  You have total ownership.  Insert name here.

So in our final day on the Islands, make this spare rib with creativity and care.  Take a few hours to really let them cook and then try to savor every bite of sweetness and spice.  Good eating and safe travels.  Chow on.


  • 1 ½  pounds pork spare ribs
  • ¼  cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • ¼  cup honey
  • ½ teaspoon five spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons sherry or whiskey
  • 1 cup orange juice or apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper


1. In an oven dish, cover spare ribs with all of the ingredients.  Do not be afraid to get your hands dirty and make sure to mix and rub the marinade all over the meat.  Let this refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

2. An hour before you plan to serve the meal, heat the oven to 325 degrees.

3. Cover oven dish with foil and cook spare ribs for 30 minutes.

4. Baste the ribs in the marinade and cooking juices and then continue to cook for another 30 minutes without the foil.

5. The dish is ready when the meat is falling off the bone.

waiwa March 19, 2010 at 9:23 am

would you recommend cooking the meat longer under lower heat? have you cooked much in a crockpot? thanks SG, you’re the best!

Magdalena CAbrera March 19, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I love the sound of this. Will make if for guests soon. You are the best , SG. : ^)

Saucy Spatula October 10, 2012 at 8:33 am

Oh.My.God. Being a Hong Konger and someone who’s trying to eat less salt – this recipe is a MUST try. Going to chinatown to get some char sui is too easy for me but I just can’t afford to have the loaded sodium anymore. THANK YOU!


carol smith March 31, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I don”t know what char sui spare ribs are. I live on long Island. Any idea where I can find them? They sound so good. Really would like to make this.

April Scherb August 11, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Has anyone ever tried cooking these on the grill? We prefer all things grilled and I don’t like to use the oven in the summer if I don’t have to. Just wondering if anyone had any good or bad reviews with doing so. The only recipe I have for grilled ribs you boil them slightly in the marinade then finish them off on the grill. Think that would work?

jessg23 August 16, 2013 at 10:13 am

Definitely! Give it a try and let us know how it goes!

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