Papas Chinese Baby Back Ribs

Posted by on August 20, 2010 in Blog, Chinese Cuisine Favorites, Family Favorites, Meat & Poultry | 18 comments

Hoisin Ribs - 1

I hope everyone’s weekend is getting off to a great start. I can’t believe it’s already Friday night… And here I am updating my blog. Such is the life of a Bebe Mama with a little one tucked away in her crib.

It seems Bebe Dada left the room and the movie he was watching ended. Now I’m sitting in the dark with my laptop and I hear something very scary on TV and I’m afraid to turn around and see what’s on the screen. I don’t even want to look for the remote control to try and change the channel. I’m going to wait patiently for him to return from his shower, meanwhile ignoring the scary stuff I’m hearing in the background… thunder, little boy screaming several times, “Mommy!  Mommy!”, scary tapping and scratching noises. Ok, maybe during the commercial I can look for the remote…. I don’t like scary movies. I even turn my eyes away from TV advertisements of scary movie trailers. Yes, I am a big chicken! Let me get back to blocking this out of my mind…

So I decided to post a lovely dinner we had a while ago since I am still in a cooking funk. I know, I know, it’s getting old, right? This is the third week of my cooking funk and therefore, the third week of not-a-whole-lot-of-cooking. The first week I posted a blueberry puree (baby food), the second week a no-cooking required bean salad, and this week I’m posting something I made several weeks ago! I blame it on the laziness of summer.

This week went by so fast! I feel as though I didn’t do much this week, but we’re finally enjoying the August summer heat. Yes, summer has officially arrived! We turned on our A/C a few times this week, Bebe E and I went swimming twice (one day one of the WLA girls brought her three kids over), we also visited Bachan

and Jichan (Bebe E’s maternal grandparents) and checked-out the newly renovated open-air Santa Monica Place Mall (Photo: view from the rooftop deck with the Santa Monica beach in the distance), made a quick trip to South Coast Plaza for an exchange, did a little grocery shopping at Marukai and Whole Foods and here we are… Friday night.

Oh, I should mention that rather than researching recipes and perusing cookbooks, I’ve been focusing my free time (i.e. during Bebe E’s naps and after Bebe E goes to bed at night) on organizing Bebe E’s photo album. I just finished photos from when she was four months old. That only leaves me with over seven months to catch-up on. Aiya! Before I started this album, I contemplated creating a photobook online, but I thought an old fashioned album would be more personal. I’ve changed my mind. I think the photobook will be equally as personal and easier to create. After I complete this ‘first year’ album, I’m going digital. Photobook, here I come!

Getting to the ribs… Quite a while ago I came across an article, Respect Food: Respect Life.  I certainly try to respect food by not wasting, and I’ve definitely become more conscious of where my produce originates and how it is grown. In addition, I try to be cognizant of where our meat and seafood originates and the humane treatment of the animals that nourish us,  yet I have yet to fully commit to grass-fed organic beef or free-range organic chicken.  This certainly doesn’t mean that I do not respect or prefer organically farmed meats.  My hesitation is primarily due to the fact that organic meats are expensive and I can’t buy it in bulk at Costco or the Asian supermarket for our family’s needs.

What I learned from the article was to simply be more mindful of where our food comes from, and thankful of the food that nourishes our bodies.  That’s definitely a good lesson to keep in mind.  Now with this in my thoughts, not too long ago I made my father-in-law’s Chinese baby back ribs.  We call him Papa, pronounced Pa-Paw, and we all love his cooking!

Ribs are something I don’t make too often, maybe twice a year, but when I do make them, I make EXTRA – enough for two dinners!

Papa’s Chinese Baby Back Ribs

  • 2 slabs of pork baby back ribs
  • 1 1/4 cups hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cooking sake
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar (adjust to your preference)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves

1)  Slice the ribs if the butcher hasn’t done so already.

The last time I made baby back ribs, I went to the Chinese market, 99 Ranch, and bought a slab of ribs.  The gentleman behind the counter asked if I wanted the ribs cut, and I eagerly said, “YES, please, that would save me quite a bit of  time.”  Well, we had a miscommunication and he sliced the slab in half, horizontally, essentially cutting each rib in half, creating mini spare ribs (like the kind served for dim sum).  That night, Bebe Dada asked me what happened to the ribs and why they were so small… uh, I don’t speak Chinese and the butcher and I had a bit of a misunderstanding?!?  This time when I bought the ribs I declined the butcher’s offer to cut the ribs, and I did it myself.

2)  The key to tender ribs that slide off the bone when you bite into them is par-boiling.  In a large pot, add ribs then cover with water.  Slowly bring the water to a boil on medium-high heat then quickly reduce to simmer.  Simmer for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.  Par-boiling also helps to reduce the fat and oiliness of the ribs.

3)  While the ribs are boiling, make the sauce.  Chop garlic cloves, and in a medium bowl combine garlic, hoisin sauce (I use Lee Kum Kee brand), sake, and  brown sugar.  

Papa uses a splash of whiskey instead of sake, but since we don’t buy whiskey I used the Japanese cooking sake I always keep on hand.

4)  Take each rib and dip it in the hoisin mixture then place in a baking dish.  I made the mistake of dumping ALL the leftover sauce over the ribs before baking them.  Although it was very tasty, Bebe Dada and I felt that it was WAY too much sauce and a little overwhelming. Big Onechan loved it as is, and we couldn’t even count how many ribs she ate.  It was A LOT.

5)  Bake at 300 degrees F, for 30 minutes.

While these baby back ribs may not have been organically farmed, they were delicious nonetheless and I am very thankful for the animal that nourished our bodies and allowed us to enjoy Papa’s delicious rib recipe.

Have a great weekend!

Judy | bebe mama

Hoisin Ribs - 1

Papa's Chinese Baby Back Ribs
  • 2 slabs of pork baby back ribs
  • 1¼ cups hoisin sauce (use less if you prefer less sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons cooking sake (Papa uses whiskey)
  • 1 to 1½ tablespoons brown sugar (adjust to your preference)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  1. Slice the ribs if the butcher hasn't done so already.
  2. The key to tender ribs that slide off the bone when you bite into them is par-boiling.  In a large pot, add ribs then cover with water.  Slowly bring the water to a boil on medium-high heat then quickly reduce to simmer. Simmer for about 1 hour to 1½ hours.  Par-boiling also helps to reduce the fat and oiliness of the ribs.
  3. While the ribs are boiling, make the sauce.  Chop garlic cloves, and in a medium bowl combine garlic, hoisin sauce (I use Lee Kum Kee brand), sake, and  brown sugar. (Papa uses a splash of whiskey instead of sake.)
  4. Take each rib and dip it in the hoisin mixture then place in a baking dish.
  5. Bake at 300 degrees F, for 30 minutes.


  1. avatar

    These look perfect, and I love that sauce…Too funny about the scary movie, I love them :0

  2. avatar

    Judy, at least you have dishes like these you can post as standbys until you get over the cooking funk. Your readers aren’t less pleased–this rib recipe is so easy and it looks good! Thanks for the tip about pre-boiling; I’ve never tried that.

    Glad you’re finally getting some warm days. Hope you’re enjoying your weekend! :-)

    • avatar

      Oh… I have too many standbys photographed and hanging out in my photo album. I’m just too lazy to write and can’t get them to! This is a good opportunity for me to catch-up.

  3. avatar

    These look really good. I love me some ribs. And good job on the photo album. I have pictures of my son for every month since he was born to see the progression. Its amazing. He starts school at the end of August and I feel sad but now I get some time for me. I have never left him with anyone except for the hubs. I like that you’re conscience of where your produce and meats come from. I should keep tabs on that. Wholefoods is a couple of blocks from my house so I get sucked in. My son and I walk over to buy our goodies. I’m mainly concerned with pesticides and antibiotics bc of the harmful long term effects. Costco is just too much stuff for us. We’re a family of 3 and we end up throwing a lot of it away.

    • avatar

      Thanks! It’s so amazing how babies change every month. It’s been really fun putting her album together and seeing her change. :)

  4. avatar

    Those ribs look delicious. Par-boiling it is a great idea as it does remove some of the fat. I seldom do ribs but this looks like a good one to try.

    • avatar

      I only make ribs maybe once or twice a year and it’s definitely an easy and tasty recipe. :)

  5. avatar

    Yes I am glad Summer arrived too here in SF, at least for the last 2 days. Gorgeous ribs! I love to use sake too in some of my Asian recipes, it has a nice subtle flavor. Enjoy summer!

    • avatar

      Oh boy, I just read that it’s supposed to be 96 today – we’ll definitely try to make the most of it!

  6. avatar

    Judy, I love hoisin BBQ ribs and the simplicity of this recipe!

  7. avatar

    Hi Judy,
    What a great recipe! We would love this. I love the idea of eating more mindfully of where our food comes from. It would be great to make this instead of ordering it out! Thanks for posting.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself — you are super organized!!

    I never did finish my son’s album…. so sad!

    • avatar

      Thanks, Melissa! I’ve been scrapbooking like a mad woman… Gonna get at least the 1st year done! :)

  8. avatar

    That’s how we’ve been taught to respect food in Asian culture, don’t you think? That’s so clever to par-boil the ribs!

    • avatar

      Yes, I definitely agree with you, T. :) My parents always taught us to be thankful of where are food came from and how it nourished us.

  9. avatar

    You are an organized person, I can tell because you’re organizing baby photos! I still don’t have wedding pics in albums. Summer has arrived in Southerin Calif and I’m already looking fwd to our version of Fall weather.

    These baby back ribs sound like perfect summer fare and Hubby will be happy to have these for dinner. Thx for sharing your father-in-law’s recipe. ;)

    • avatar

      Thanks, Christina! :) Wasn’t it hot the past week!!! It’s very cool today, quite suddenly, but I imagine it will get super hot again before we see the leaves change color in SoCal.


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