I don’t know what’s gotten into me this week, but I’ve been on a serious Asian food kick. My poor cumin has been languishing in the spice cabinet as I reach for the Chinese five-spice powder and ginger. We recently got a new delivery of grass-fed beef that just about filled our freezer, so I’ve been working my way through back inventory of frozen meat. Tucked into far left corner of the freezer, I found two packages of pork spare ribs and instantly had a craving for Asian-spiced pig. What I did not have a craving for, however, was spending a buttload of time in the kitchen or tending the grill.
I did zero internet research and didn’t even flip through my favorite go-to cookbooks — I just opened my spice cabinet and starting experimenting. The result was fall-off-the-bone-if-you-look-at-them-askance ribs, infused with the complex but comforting flavors of Chinese five-spice powder.
Our first meal was simply the unadorned ribs with some crudité alongside; our second was a nourishing bowl of broth spiked with lots of ginger, bok choy, and tender morsels of pork I pulled off the bones by winking at them.
You can absolutely use this approach for beef ribs, and I suspect it will also work great on larger beef and pork cuts, like shoulder and stew meat. With good spices and a slow cooker, you really can’t go wrong.
5-Spice Slow-Cooker Pork Ribs
Prep 2 min. | Cook 6-12 hours in slow cooker
3-4 pounds baby back or St. Louis pork ribs
salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
3/4 teaspoon coarse (granulated) garlic powder
1 fresh jalapeño, cut into rings
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons coconut aminos or homemade substitute
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1. Cut the ribs into pieces that will fit standing up in the slow cooker. Lay the ribs on a cutting board and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, mix the Chinese five- spice and garlic powder together, then massage onto the meat to coat the ribs.
2. Toss the jalapeño rings into the bottom of the slow cooker, and add the rice vinegar, coconut aminos, and tomato paste. Stir until the tomato paste is combined with the other liquids. Add the ribs, standing up so they’re not lying in the liquid – or use a roasting rack inside the cooker so the ribs are not lying on the bottom – cover, and cook 6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.
3. When the ribs are fall-apart tender, remove them from the cooker. Pour the liquid into a heat-proof container and refrigerate until the fat separates from the juices. Remove the fat and bring the remaining liquid to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes. Use as a dipping/drizzle sauce for the meat.
4. Want ‘em crispy? Throw the ribs in a 400F oven for 10 minutes while you boil the sauce.
Serves 2; easy to double, triple, quadruple | Prep 2 min. | Cook 2-8 hours in slow cooker | Assembly 5 min.
beef, chicken, or pork stock
a big hunk of fresh ginger
a few garlic cloves
leftover 5-Spice Pork Ribs
1 head fresh bok choy or spinach, coarsely chopped
3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 hard-boiled eggs (optional)
1. Place your stock in the slow cooker. Peel the ginger and cut into 1/2-inch slices; add to crockpot. Peel garlic and lightly smash with the flat side of a knife; add to crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours (or more).
2. When you’re ready to eat, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons water, and when it starts to boil, throw in the bok choy, sautéeing in the steam until it’s just tender. Divide among serving bowls. In the same pan, stir fry your desired amount of pork until it’s hot. Place the pork in the serving bowls, then ladle hot broth into the bowls until the veg and meat are almost covered. Sprinkle the top with sliced scallions and garnish with wedges of hard-boiled egg, if using.
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