Walter Kei’s Sweet and Sour Spareribs

Walter Kei of Hong Kong likes to flour these spareribs and then deep-fry them, but I prefer pan-frying and then braising them. Kei finishes the sauce with lime juice and butter, a twist that reflects the innovative style of Hong Kong cooks.–Grace Young

LC Servings Vary Note

Yes, in theory, you could stretch these delectable ribs to satisfy 4 persons if you set them out as part of a banquet feast. Even still, be warned, these ribs disappear awfully quickly.

Walter Kei's Sweet and Sour Spareribs Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 3 H
  • Serves 2 to 4


  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon Shao-Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean baby back pork spareribs, cut into single ribs
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup Chinkiang (Chinese black) or balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest, optional


  • 1. In a large bowl, combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, the sugar, cornstarch, rice wine, soy sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon oil. Add the spareribs and combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • 2. Pat the ribs completely dry with paper towels. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and carefully add the spareribs, meat side down, spreading them in a single layer in the wok. Reduce the heat to medium and fry, undisturbed, for 5 minutes, letting the spareribs brown. Then, using a spatula, turn the spareribs over and fry an additional 2 minutes.
  • 3. Carefully add the brown sugar, vinegar, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and water to the wok and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the ribs meat side down. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is tender. Add the butter and lime juice and stir to combine. Garnish with lime zest, if desired.
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