Char siu ribs

The low-effort way to oven-roasted tender ribs.


I like my ribs sticky and glossy, infused with a powerhouse of classic Chinese flavours. Give me a sharp knife, a bit of kitchen towel to wipe my hands – and, because I eat them with all the grace of Cookie Monster, my face – and I'm good to go.

These are easy to make; the only vague hardship is a little forward planning to give them as much of a full day's marinating as you can. After that, you just toss them into the oven and baste them a few times towards the end of cooking to create a deeply red coat of delicious lacquer.

Because of the shape and size of the ribs, it's easier to marinate them in a ziplock bag than it is in a bowl. If you don't have a rack that fits inside your roasting tin, line the tin with foil first to make clean-up easier, as the marinade will scorch a little.

Char siu ribs

Serves 2.

2 racks of pork ribs
80ml (⅓ cup) hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce*
2 tablespoons rice wine
1 tablespoon of sesame oil

to serve:
chopped coriander
finely sliced long red chilli

Measure all the liquid ingredients and the five-spice into a resealable plastic bag. Add the ribs, seal up the bag and roll around to coat the ribs. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, overnight if possible. The longer, the better.

To cook, set your oven to 180°C (350°F).

Remove the ribs from the marinade (keep the remaining marinade) and place them on a rack in a roasting tin with the arch of the ribs facing down (i.e., with the end of the bones pointing up). Pour enough water into the tin just to cover the bottom; this will both help steam the meat and stop any drips of marinade from burning. Cover the tin tightly with foil and roast for 1 hour.

Remove the foil, turn the ribs over and baste well with the reserved marinade. Turn the oven up to 200°C (400°F). Roast for another 30 minutes, uncovered, basting every 10 minutes until glossy.

Serve with bowls of chopped coriander and chilli to be sprinkled over the ribs.

* Dark soy sauce is the Chinese kind. It gives char siu its red colouring. If you don’t ordinary keep it, I wouldn’t buy it especially for this; simply use your regular soy sauce instead.