Incredible Asian Flavored Short Ribs
I served this incredibly delicious and easy to prepare Asian short ribs on Friday night with friends looking for an excuse to open some spectacular wines that needed to be drunk. Any excuse will do.
The original recipe comes from an article about slow cookers by Mark Bittman where he says about a slow cooker, "I call it the Monster of Braising. I use it almost every day. Go ahead and sneer. I love my slow cooker. Essentially a small, closed electric pot that provides extremely low and reliably even heat, the slow cooker is simple, safe and, as long as you don't try to stretch its capabilities, virtually foolproof."
I am in complete agreement and love my slow cooker but there was one problem, I needed to double this recipe and my crock pot wasn't big enough. I ended up using one Le Creuset French Oven and one Loge Cast Iron Dutch Oven.
After a little research on the Internet, I learned that the LOW setting on a slow cooker is around 200 degrees F and the HIGH setting is around 300 degrees F. So I set my oven to 200 degrees F and let this dish cook for about 6 hours and they were done and delicious. Because everyone's ovens are a little different, I suggest you check after 5 hours and see how the ribs look. If they are tender and falling off the bone or the meat shreds, they are ready to go.
Beef Short Ribs
There is a lot of confusion when talking short ribs. I have looked at dozens of sites and one describes the different cuts one way and another describes them differently. I found a site called Amazing Ribs that describes them clearly. Not only short ribs, this site describes every kind of rib you have ever eaten. Here's my attempt with their help.
Short ribs come bone-in or boneless and can be cut in different styles. If you are familiar with pork spare ribs, beef short ribs are larger and a little meatier version of the same cut of meat. They are cut from the lower rib area called short plate. (see my beef chart page) These ribs are located "in front of another inexpensive, chewy but flavorful cut, the flank steak, and just behind another favorite cut for barbecue, the brisket."
English Cut Short Ribs
According to Amazingribs, "there are usually 4-5 bones from 3 to 8 inches long sold as a rack or as a package of individual ribs." I can't say I've ever seen a whole rack sold in any market. They usually come as individual ribs or Short Rib Riblets where they come as a single bone and range in size from 2 to 6 inches.
Flanken Cut Short Ribs
Here the 4 to 5 rib bones are cut only about 1 inch long so you have a section of ribs 9 inches x 1 inch with bone in.
Boneless Short Ribs
These are the type I like to buy and used in this recipe. The meat is cut right off the rib bones so you have meat measuring about ½ to 1 inch thick and 8 inches long with no bones.
Hard to Find Ingredients for Asian Short Ribs
Chef Bittman's recipe calls for two ingredients that you may have trouble finding unless you have an Asian supermarket near you or a very well stocked health food store. I went to two grocery stores near me and couldn't find either one so I made some substitutions as described below. I did do a quick search on Amazon.com for these two ingredients and found they are available online.
According to Amazon's product description, "Star anise is a star-shaped seed pod with a licorice taste similar to regular anise, only stronger. It is about one inch high with eight segments and a dark brown rust color. Star anise is a key ingredient in many Chinese, Vietnamese and Indian kitchens and can replace regular anise in western recipes."
I substituted a fennel bulb, an anise flavored plant that you may be interested to know is one of the main herbs used in the preparation of absinthe, a very powerful alcoholic drink popular in France in the late 19th century. I am a big fan of fennel and use it raw in salads where its licorice flavor adds to greens and when braised mellows out and gives chicken and meats a wonderful extra layer of flavor.
Interestingly enough, Sichuan peppercorns are not related to what we know as black peppercorns but are according to Wikipedia, "the outer pod of the tiny fruit of a number of species in the genus Zanthoxylum, widely grown and consumed in Asia as a spice."
Sichuan pepper has a lemony flavor and causes a tingly numbness in the mouth. Both Star Anise and Sichuan Pepper are ingredients in the popular Chinese Five-Spice Powder available in most supermarkets. This combination of spices contains all five flavors important in Asian cooking including sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty. I suppose I could have just substituted this spice for both ingredients. I ended up using fennel and black peppercorns and the results were fine.
Braised Short Ribs with Asian Flavors
- 2 Dutch ovens
- 10 short ribs boneless, cut in half
- 1 cup soy sauce
- ½ cup sugar or ½ cup honey
- 1 bulb fennel chopped into small pieces
- 12 scallions trimmed
- 2 cinnamon sticks 3 inch pieces
- 10 slices ginger nickel-sized
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 200° F.
- I started by prepping all my ingredients before starting. This is called Mise en Place.
- Heat up two French/Dutch oven on top of the stove and brown the meat on all sides. Don't crowd the pans. If you have to brown the meat in batches, that's OK and better than steaming the meat.
- Once all the meat is brown, divide the soy sauce equally between the two pots.
- Equally portion the sugar, fennel pieces, scallions, cinnamon sticks, ginger and peppercorns into each pot.
- Cover the French or Dutch ovens and cook in the oven for 5 to 6 hours or until the meat is very tender and shreds easily with a fork.
- Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
- We served the ribs with mashed sweet/yellow potatoes and salad greens the first night. The next night we ate the leftovers with steamed cauliflower.
Best short ribs ever. Cooked half the recipe in the slow cooker, and served them with Chinese fried rice and a salad made from nappa cabbage. Definitely a keeper! Thank you very much.
Hi Trudy, you are very welcome and thanks for letting me know how much you enjoyed it. - RG
That Amazing Ribs website is stellar!! Thanks for putting it out there for us, and for this recipe.
G. Stephen Jones
No problem Kell. Glad you enjoyed both.
Hi, RG. I've never made short ribs before. Your recipe calls for the types of seasoning I want. I have a couple of questions. What are the original amounts of star anise and sichuan peppercorns? I have both.How many would you say this feeds? I'm going to be making these batches in one french oven and a large crock-pot. I'm really more experienced with my french oven than the crock-pot, but also need larger quantities. Thanks!
Hi Stefanie, thanks for the comments. I would say about 2 or 3 star anise and 1 teaspoon of Sichuan Peppercorns. How many does it feed really depends on so many factors including:
who you are feeding and what else you are serving with this meal. I'm not trying to be vague, but if there are kids or seniors, they are going to eat a lot less than most adults. Men often eat more than women but I know guys on diets (not many) who don't eat much at all. Are you serving this with rice? Are you starting with a nice big salad? Is bread involved? What kind of short ribs did you purchase? How big are they? Now if each person eats two short ribs, this would be good for 5 people but figure out who you are serving before you go purchase the ribs. Hope this helps. - RG
Hi, RG. I appreciate your response. After choosing the spare ribs, I've figured 2 pieces per person and have plenty of other food to cover big appetites. I love star anise. Such a wonderful surprise for people's tastebuds!
PS I've also decided to keep the fennel in the recipe. It loses it's anise sharpness and adds such a lovely layer of flavor to braised dishes.
I have a similar recipe for Asian short ribs. It calls for hoisin sauce, ginger & garlic and a bottle of strong ale to simmer the ribs in after browning with the ginger & garlic. The hoisin sauce goes in for the last 30 min of simmering with lid off. So good and like you said, better the second day. Keep up the great recipes!
Is the soy sauce the only liquid? I'd like to try these today with 1/2-ing the recipe, but 1/2 c soy sauce looks like a tiny amount of liquid for braising. Thanks! Lisa
Hi Lisa, when I read your question I thought maybe I misread the original recipe and went back and looked it up and found it only used 1/2 cup of soy sauce. I think I went to 1 cup because I added some additional ribs. I may have also thought 1/2 cup wasn't enough so to answer your question, yes 1/2 cup should be fine if you are cutting the recipe in half. If you think the soy sauce will make the results too salty, you could always add a little beef or brown stock too. Let me know how they turn out. - RG
Well, there is a reason why true absinth is forbidden in most of european countries: it destroys the brain cells. Don't drink that, and you'll not become feeeble-minded.