Saturday, February 19, 2011

Adventures in a Foreign Land


     Yesterday, I went to Chinatown with PN. It was to be a short, simple grocery shopping trip for me: pick up some veggies and some Asian condiments (as I was woefully lacking in anything I need to make the Asian foods I crave). Somehow, I ended up with four bags full of food. I got hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. I got cauliflower and scallions and bok choy. I got pho noodles and rice cakes, panko bread crumbs, and lychees... I went a little crazy.
     But, that's not even the best part of this story. At this Chinese supermarket, no one seems to speak English. Especially the butchers. So, we stood in front of the meat counter, trying to stare through foggy glass at cuts of meat labelled in Chinese. It doesn't help that neither of us has paid much attention to our mothers' purchases of different meats in the past. This is how it went:

PN: Do you think those are pork chops?
Me: They seem like the right shape?
PN: Which one do you think is the butt?
Me: I think that one might be, because the butt is bigger than the shoulder, right? What do you think that is?
PN: I think that's the shoulder!
Me: Oh good! I want one.

     And so forth. After jumping up and down and saying Excuse Me at varying volumes to get the attention of the butchers, PN was brave first and bought two of the pork chops through ingenious use of pointing. I went next and did the same for a pork shoulder. Then she bought half a pound of something highly intriguing. They looked like ribs, except were cut even smaller than normal riblets, and some of the pieces didn't even have any bone (See picture above). I bought half a pound too.

     Back at home, I got tired of googling for potential recipes. I knew I wanted to marinate these pork bits in my newly bought sauces, but I didn't know what else to do. So, I did what any good cook does in times of trouble: I called my mom. From her, I got this simple procedure for cooking my baby ribs to perfection. They are tiny and delectable, I can easily see them playing the role of an appetizer at a party. But, regardless of what they can be, the sticky sweet and tangy marinade on the melting pieces of meat was irresistible. While "watching" them cool, I tried one, and then another, and then another. The next time I looked, half of the riblets were gone. Sometimes, you cannot wait to take pictures before you eat.

     Today, I wanted these riblets to be part of a real meal. So, I made rice, stir fried some bok choy, and here we are. A perfect Asian meal, using almost all the ingredients I bought yesterday. That, gives me a very satisfactory feeling indeed. To match the satisfied feeling in my stomach from warm rice, garlicky, crunch bok choy, and sweet savory pork. Just a note: these pork bits (if you use these to cook and not regular ribs, which you could also use in this recipe, if you just doubled the marinade), anyway: they have plenty of fatty bits and little bones. So, keep a napkin and potentially a bowl for bones around while you eat. Point being, it doesn't matter because they are just so good.

Hoisin-Honey Glazed Pork Riblets 

1/2 lb Pork Riblets 
1 tsp Sugar 
2 tbsp Hoisin Sauce 
1 tbsp Soy Sauce 
2 1/2 tbsp Honey 
1/2 tbsp Oyster Sauce 
2 tsp Salt 
1 tsp Black Pepper 
1/2 tbsp Vegetable Oil 

Prep For Pork: 

Fill a large bowl with water, 1 tsp of sugar, and 1 tsp of Salt. Submerge meat in it to brine. 


Meanwhile, mix the hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, honey, and soy sauce in a medium bowl. Set aside. 

Cooking Pork: 

After 10-15 minutes of brining (these pieces of meat are so small you barely need to brine them at all), pour the water out of the bowl. Pat the meat dry with a paper towel. Then, dry rub with the black pepper and remaining teaspoon of salt. Lay the meat out on a cutting board (or something) so it dries completely. Once it is dry, heat the oil in a large pan. Sear the meat in the pan, browning it on both sides. Take the meat out of the pan. After letting it cool for a minute, put it in the marinade. Mix so each portion is coated thoroughly. Leave the mixture for half an hour (or longer for even better results). Then, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the marinated pork on a baking sheet, and place inside the oven. It will only take 5-10 minutes to cook if you use the small size riblets I did. Regular riblets or ribs would probably take 10-15 minutes, just keep an eye out.  


Since all my marinade didn't get soaked into the pork, I just poured it back onto the pork once I took the slightly cooled pork off the baking sheet and placed it in a bowl. 

Garlicky Bok Choy 
Adapted from Steamy Kitchen

1 Bok Choy 
1 Small Garlic Clove (or 1/2 of a larger one), Minced 
1/8 tsp Ginger Powder 
1/2 tbsp Vegetable Oil 
1 tbsp Water

Prep for Bok Choy: 

Trim the bok choy by cutting off the very bottom of the stem (the thickest part). Then, pull part the different segments. Keep the little baby bok choy in the center intact. Rinse all the segments lightly under water to clean, then drain. 

Cooking Bok Choy: 

Place the oil, garlic, and ginger in a cold wok or large frying pan. Heat them all up together at medium heat. When the garlic is sizzling and golden, add the bok choy. Toss the segments in the oil till they are all completely coated with garlicky oil. Then, pour in the water, and immediately cover the pan. Let it cook for 1 minute, and then take out and serve.


I only made one bok choy because I just wanted it for lunch today. But, if you are cooking for a crowd or just want to eat more veggies, the Steamy Kitchen link has the proportions for cooking 1 lb of bok choy. 


  1. Can you do an entry on that bruschetta from Julie and Julia??? it looks yummy. I want it.

  2. Do you remember any other details about it? / What Julia's book is called? (It is embarrassing that I don't remember that). I'll try to do it during Spring break, remind me.

    Glad you liked the bok choy.

  3. it is with these red tomatoes and yellow tomatoes/bell peppers... im not sure what it was, it was yellow... and then, in the movie, she was ranting while her husband (julie, not julia)goes "this is really good." Like him, i blocked out what she was ranting about bc i was looking at the food-- it would be useful if i could remember.