The 16th of February is the start of the Chinese New Year, and to celebrate, we’ll be eating Zhēng Pái Gu (Steamed Ribs with Glutinous Rice). Glutinous rice steamed ribs is a literal translation.
Our goal with the first dish of this year’s collection was to create a dish that even the most inexperienced cook could pull off with minimal fuss to impress guests at a New Year’s Eve celebration or serve their own families. The irony of Chinese New Year cuisine is that it is not always straightforward to prepare.
It’s about as far from simple as it gets. At Chinese New Year, people go all out, preparing complex and delicate dishes, often using expensive and “prosperous” ingredients such as whole fish, chicken, shrimp, oysters, sticky rice, lotus, etc.
Although Steamed Ribs with Glutinous Rice isn’t quite “simple,” it is wonderful. The pork rib marinade has lots of umami, and the rice and meat are infused with the flavors of the lotus leaf. When compared to grandma’s “gold bar” tofu wraps, pearl meatballs encased in sticky rice, seafood bird nest, and the soup she cooked for hours, these steamed ribs with glutinous rice hold their own.
- 1 pound of pork ribs (cut into 2-inch pieces)
- 1 piece of red fermented bean curd (mashed)
- 1 large dried lotus leaf
- 2 finely chopped scallions (with the white and green parts separated)
- 2 cups of sticky rice (sweet rice or glutinous rice)
- 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine
- 1 tablespoon of liquid from the red fermented bean curd jar
- 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon of sugar (divided)
- 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon of sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon of ground white pepper (divided)
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- Soaking the ribs for 2 hours the night before will help draw out any remaining blood or other contaminants in the meat. Change the water a few times in between. The ribs should be drained, washed, and dried using a paper towel.
- Use the mashed red fermented bean curd, the jar liquid, the sesame oil, the Shaoxing wine, the white pepper, the ginger, and the scallion whites to make a marinade for the ribs. Put in the fridge overnight and cover.
- You should completely submerge a huge dried lotus leaf in water to rehydrate it. Put something heavy on it, like a dish or bowl, and let it sit overnight. These leaves are fragile and need to be handled with care.
- The following day, soak 2 cups of glutinous rice in water that’s at least 2 inches higher than the rice line for an hour. While that’s happening, bring the ribs out of the fridge after they’ve been marinating to room temperature.
- The lotus leaf should be washed thoroughly on both sides with clean water. The lotus leaf should be used to line a bamboo steamer or a big heatproof plate (at least 2-3 inches deep).
- Then, fill the steamer with water and get it ready to go. Be sure the steamer has enough water, but not too much that it will overflow and ruin the dish. If water levels drop too low when steaming, just add some hot water. Turn on the stovetop heat source and put the lid back on the steamer.
- Eject the liquid from the glutinous rice. Add 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce, 14 teaspoons of ground white pepper and salt, and the rest of the scallions to the drained rice and mix well.
- Now, add the ribs that have been marinating (and the marinade juice!) and stir thoroughly. Spread the rice out on the lotus leaf, and fold the leaf’s outer edges over the mound.
- To steam, place everything in a steamer and cook for 60 minutes at high heat. Make sure the water in the steamer doesn’t dry out by checking on it every 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add more chopped scallions as garnish (if using) and serve.