If you ask anyone from Vietnam if they have had caramelized pork ribs, the chances are very high that they have. An exception would be if they have not spent much time in the country and even then, there are very slim chances that they have not come across the meal. This delicacy also goes by the names suon ram man or suon khia, and it is one of the most popular side dishes in Vietnam.
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The tradition goes that if there is no suon ram man or its equivalent in play during a meal, then the meal is seen as incomplete. As such, it is a classic dish.
When making this dish, you will note that the pork spare ribs braise in coconut juice until they almost fall off the bone. This process enables them to be tender and thus makes them all the more flavorful as they can take in seasonings at much faster rates. The liquid used in the braising later comes in play at the end where you will cook it and what remains of it is a sweet glaze that will have you licking your fingers long after you finish your meal.
Vietnamese Spare Ribs
My journey with this dish has been one of finding myself too, and this dish thus holds a dear place in my heart. I was not always a food enthusiast, and it took me a while to get over my inhibitions. However, my courage to try new things got me where I am today, and it is not only regarding food but on other life matters as well.
You will notice that many Vietnamese main dishes call for caramel and for anyone who does not wish to have sweet tastes in their meals; this factor can prove to be quite a turn-off. At least it was for me as I was more inclined to eating spicy dishes.
I later came to realize that most Asian dishes lean on the sweet side. Take an example of the Chinese. If you wish to enjoy their meals, you should be ready to indulge in some sour as well as sweet dishes. Pop in at any Japan Teriyaki restaurant across the globe, and you will be in for many tastes, most of which are sweet.
It is thus no surprise that the Vietnamese too, love their meals sweet. There is nothing wrong with a little sweetness in food as long as there is a balance in the tastes.
As such, I let go of my worries and tried out many Vietnamese recipes. By the time I got to this one, I had learned a lot about altering sweetness to achieve what worked best for me and as such, I had become a pro in the process, at least by my standards.
You will notice that when you drop into a hotel, you can give the waitstaff all the instructions that you deem necessary and yet the final call will fall on the chef’s shoulders. As such, you are never really in control of what you will consume at the end of the day. However, with home-cooked meals, you have all the power and you can decide how sweet you wish to go.
It’s one of the perks of home cooking.
If you have been itching to show off your extraordinary cooking skills or are looking for something new to break free from the same old, this recipe will amaze you. This Vietnamese rib recipe is quite easy to follow, and you can whip up this meal at any time and on any day without much trouble.
You should pay note to the color of the caramel as it will affect the sheen that you get in the end. As long as it is deep brown, you will end up with a beautiful glistening appearance at the end. Many people find that their results do not match those that they see in recipe books and that is the trick to getting amazing results.
The sauce does not need additives such as cornflour or other such products as it will thicken naturally. Some people opt to use these ingredients to hasten the process, and it is okay if you do.
One last thing before we get to the recipe.
Dealing with pork ribs can be a very messy process, and if you wish to avoid all that, you can use the pork belly in their stead. You can also double the amount of liquid in play if you want. This move will not only keep your meat from drying up too fast, but it will also provide you with some sauce for other uses.
I find that this meal is quite balanced and it is easy to follow the recipe, regardless of your cooking experience. With the tips and tricks out of the way, we can now get down to the preparation. Gear up because you are about to have the cooking experience of a lifetime. Enjoy!
Suon Ram Man Recipe
This Vietnamese caramelized pork ribs recipe serves three to five people, depending on the size of portions in play. When it comes to the spare ribs, ask your butcher to cut them into long strips that are against the bone. In this way, you can cut them up into bite-size chunks.
When making a Vietnamese dish, it is quite common to find that you need a stock powder in one form or the other. Examples include mushroom, pork and chicken stock powders. These powders work toward giving dishes that original Vietnamese feel and making a meal without them results in a very different taste.
In America, Vietnamese cookbooks do not list stock powders in their processes. There are many arguments as to this. Some people feel that it owes to the difficulty in getting these powders in the country while others think that it is because these products contain MSG.
Though the reason behind their absence is not apparent, it is evident that anyone trying to achieve a Vietnamese delicacy without these powders will never know the true essence of these meals, more so when it comes to suon ram man.
When using these powders, you should note that they are not for sole use and you must use them alongside traditionally made stock. The stock refers to slowly simmering vegetables or meats or bones. If this is not the case, then you should use them for seasoning in a marinade.
However, finding these powders is not as hard as it seems.
While it may be hard to come across a vendor with mushroom or pork stock powders, you can easily find chicken stock powders, and it works just as well for other foods. You can get this in Latino as well as Asian supermarkets. Some Asian retailers also have mushroom stock powder.
Of the three options, pork stock powder is the hardest to come by, and your best bet would be in getting someone from Vietnam to get it in your stead. However, that should not be a cause for worry as you can easily use the different types interchangeably. However, the mushroom option works best for vegetarian dishes while the other two are great for meat dishes.
It is quite easy to confuse these stock powders with bouillon cubes. However, I would advise you not to make that mistake as the results are quite dreadful. The chances are high that you would toss the cubes into a trash can upon the first try. You will also find that some people use MSG on its own, as is the case with traditionalists. Though this enhances flavors by a great deal, it is necessary to use it in small quantities and at the final stages in cooking. Failure to do this can have devastating effects.
I hope this helps you out when choosing the stock powder that you will use for this meal.
- Thirty-two ounces of pork spare ribs
- One teaspoon of salt
- Three minced garlic cloves
- One minced shallot
- One tablespoon of pork stock powder
- Two tablespoons of fish sauce
- Half a teaspoon of pepper
- Three tablespoons of granulated sugar
- Three-quarter cup of water or coconut juice
- One sliced green onion
Cut the spare ribs into small chunks and estimate how much space they will take up in a pot. Fill the cooking pot with water such that when you add the pork ribs, they will get adequate cover. Add salt to the water and turn on the heat to medium. Allow the water to come to a boil before adding the pork.
Reduce the heat and let the pork sit in the boiling water for two to three minutes. During this time, the water will rid the meat of any impurities. It will also get rid of any unwanted smell from the pork. Ensure that the water keeps boiling throughout this process.
Next, drain the water from the ribs and run the meat under cold water for at least a minute to get rid of any impurities that may have stuck to the flesh. It will also ensure that any smell remaining from the first step gets eliminated for good.
It’s now time to tenderize the meat.
The ingredients that you will need for this step include your stock powder, the shallot, the garlic, black pepper, sugar and fish sauce. Combine these ingredients in a bowl and place the pork ribs in it. Ensure that the pork ribs get entirely covered by these ingredients. The advisable time taken for this process is fifteen minutes.
However, you can achieve better results by giving the meat more time to marinate. I find that leaving the pork in the fridge overnight in the marinade not only makes it juicier but it is also softer. As such, if you plan on making this meal, it is best to start the preparations the day before.
Place a medium pot over medium heat and in it, add two tablespoons of sugar. Use a wooden spoon to stir the sugar continuously as it is easy for sugar to burn. Upon heating, the sugar will liquefy and turn to a dark amber hue. The moment it changes color, do not hesitate to add the marinated pork as well as the juices into the pot. While doing this, be sure to exercise caution as a drop from the hot sugar will have you screaming in pain.
As you add the ingredients, keep stirring to ensure that the pork gets the deep amber color. If you notice that the sugar is clumping, do not pay much thought to it as the heat will dissolve the clumps, and you can continue with the process.
From here, add water or coconut juice and turn up the heat until the liquid comes to a boil. Cover the pot, leaving enough space for steam to escape, before lowering the temperature. Ensure that the liquid is simmering and let it be for the next half an hour. Now and then, be sure to toss the pork to ensure that it cooks evenly on all sides.
Remove the lid after thirty minutes but do not turn off the heat. Allow for the simmering to continue for the next twenty minutes. At this point, the liquid will have evaporated, and the pork will have a shiny glaze to it. You can now turn off the heat and transfer the pork to a plate. Use the green onions and black pepper for garnishing and enjoy your meal.
While sweet tastes may not be everyone’s cup of tea, a bite of this Suon Ram Man will have you looking into other ways in which you can caramelize meat. You are free to alter the sweetness to the levels which you desire. I surely hope that this Vietnamese ribs recipe has shed light as to ways in which you can make this meal as well as the tips that come in handy. All the best!