Salt Pepper – the Secret Asian Spice (Sous Vide Salt Pepper Ribs)

This is not your regular salt and pepper recipe. This is salt and pepper SPICE. It’s the secret that Asian night markets have been using all these years. The distinctly spicy, salty, aromatic UMAMI BOMB, but you just can’t quite put your finger on it. We’ll show you how to make it with our sous vide salt pepper ribs but you can use it on any of your favorite fried foods. 

The Sous Vide

Let’s start with the pork, we are using spare ribs here cut into 1-inch riblets. In many Asian preparations of pork dishes, a number of ingredients are added to remove the “porky” flavor. We’ll do the same today, by adding ginger and shaoxing wine. We used larger slices of ginger so that we can easily remove it afterwards. The other aromatics are in dry powder form so that they don’t burn in our frying process.

We are going to sous vide at 165F for 4 hours. This gives us a more “traditional” bite with tender juicy meat. Some people may say that it’s still a bit “tough” but that’s our preferred time for ribs. Cook these ribs to the doneness and texture that you We are going to sous vide at 165F (74C) for 4 hours. This gives us a more “traditional” bite with tender juicy meat. Some people may say that it’s still a bit “tough” but that’s our preferred time for ribs and this is closer to the texture of how it is made traditionally. Cook these ribs to the doneness and texture that you prefer.

Close up of salt pepper ribs. Golden brown ribs. Scallion, onion, chilli peppers, garlic minced.
The combination of the salt pepper spice and the aromatics makes this rib dish the ultimate umami bomb!

The Pepper Salt Spices 

Begin by removing the seeds from the star anise. Yeah, we didn’t know it had it either – honestly, I thought the star anise was already the seed. We learned that the seed may cause the spice to be bitter when toasted.

In a dry pan, toast salt, star anise, dried chillies, green peppercorn, and white peppercorns. We prefer using whole white peppercorns, but if you don’t have it, just use ground white pepper. Keep the spices moving, and make sure they don’t burn. They are going to be on there for 5-10 mins. They will get pretty fragrant which may cause you to sneeze or cough. 

The next step is to grind it into a fine powder. Again, as you may have seen in the video, it may cause you to sneeze and cough. It’s pretty potent. You won’t use ALL of this, for most applications, you’ll only need a sprinkle of it, so keep it in an airtight container, and whip it out whenever you want. Try it on your fried squid, chicken, pork, mushrooms etc. It’s pretty much good on everything.

Chopsticks picking up one piece of salt pepper ribs with full plate in background.
Sous viding at 165F (74C) gives the ribs a tender texture with a little bit of bite.

The Mise en Place 

When your ribs are nearly ready, it’s time to prepare your mise en place – just a fancy way of saying: PAPARE ALL YOUR INGREDIENTS IN ADVANCE! We are going to do some fine dicing here, so start by making sure your knife is sharp. Slicing ginger, then into matchsticks, then into a fine dice. You don’t want to smash the ginger here, like for other Chinese recipes, as you’ll release the juices when cooking. Mince garlic, and slice the scallions whites. Ginger, garlic and scallion is the trifecta or mirepoix of Chinese cuisine.

Next you’ll take long green and red chilli peppers, seed them and dice them finely as well. Finally, the onion, the easiest way we found is to lop off both ends of the onion, slice it in half, and remove the skin. Then peel off a layer of the onion, cut into matchsticks, the dice. Try to keep the dice of the chilies and onion to roughly the same size. 

Frying 

Remove your ribs from the sous vide, and pat them dry with paper towel. You’ll want these pretty dry so they don’t splash all over the place when you fry them. Heat a cast iron pan filled up halfway with oil over medium high heat until it reaches 375F (190C). Working in batches, lightly coat the ribs in corn starch, and fry until it’s a golden brown. This won’t take too long. The pork ribs have already been fully cooked so you don’t have to worry about all that. Remove once the color is reached and allow it to dry on a wire rack. Repeat with other batches. 

Chinese salt pepper ribs on plate with peppers, onions, scallions
Making these ribs in the sous vide makes it easier to fry up as you don’t have to worry about the doneness.

Stir Frying 

This part is going to go fast, make sure all your ingredients are within reach and ready to go. Get your wok going on medium to medium-high heat with a drizzle of oil. Add in the ginger, garlic, and scallion, stir fry until fragrant. Next add in the ribs, and give it a good mix. Right after that add in both chilli peppers, onion, and a teaspoon (or more) of the salt pepper spice mixture. You can go heavier or to your desired taste. Mix it all together, and remove from the heat. You don’t want the onions, and peppers to overcook otherwise they will wilt and release too much liquid. They will also retain their color much better. 

And that’s all there is to it. Serve it hot. 

Use the salt pepper spice on anything your heart desires. 

chinese salt pepper ribs
The little bits of pepper and onions goes great with white rice as well!

Sous Vide Salt Pepper Ribs

This is not your regular salt and pepper recipe. This is salt and pepper SPICE. It’s the secret that Asian night markets have been using all these years. The distinctly spicy, salty, aromatic UMAMI BOMB. We’ll show you how to make it with our sous vide salt pepper ribs but you can use it on any of your favorite fried foods.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: asian, chinese, chinese recipe, pepper salt, pork ribs, salt pepper

Ingredients

Sous Vide Ingredients

  • 600 g Pork Spare Ribs 1 inch pieces 
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing Wine
  • 1 tsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 tsp Five Spice Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 inch Knob of Ginger sliced

Stir Fry Ingredients

  • 1 inch Ginger minced
  • 4-5 cloves Garlic minced
  • 1 Long Red Chili Pepper seeded & minced
  • 1 Long Green Chili Pepper seeded & minced
  • ¼ cup Onion finely minced
  • 3 Scallion Whites sliced

Pepper Salt

  • 2 tbsp Salt
  • ½ Star Anise seeds removed
  • 10 Dried Chilies
  • tsp Whole Green Peppercorn
  • tsp Whole White Peppercorn

Frying

  • Cornstarch
  • Oil

Instructions

  • Set sous vide to 165F(74C). You can use your desired cooking temperature and time here.
  • In a bowl, mix together shaoxing wine, sesame oil, five spice, garlic powder, and 3-4 slices of ginger. 
  • Place into a single layer in your bag, and seal.
  • Sous vide for 4-6 hours or until your desired texture and doneness is reached.
  • In a dry pan over medium heat, add salt, dried chillies, green peppercorns, white peppercorns, and star anise with the seeds removed (Each clove has its own seed).
  • Fry until aromatic, about 5-10mins, make sure to keep it moving so the spices don’t burn.
  • Place into a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind until a fine powder is reached. Be careful here, the powder could make you cough and sneeze.
  • Store the powder in an airtight container, you’ll only need a teaspoon of the mixture for this recipe.
  • Prepare your mise en place. Make sure to sharpen your knife. Finely mince the ginger and garlic. Seed the peppers and mince as well. Slice the whites of the scallions.
  • Finally for the onion, the easiest way is to cut off the ends, slice in half, peel away one layer, cut into matchsticks, then mince.
  • Heat your frying apparatus with oil, we used a cast iron pan, on medium high heat until it reaches 375F(190C).
  • Remove the ribs from the bag, pat dry thoroughly, and coat in a thin layer of corn starch.
  • In batches, carefully drop the ribs into the oil and fry until golden brown.
  • Remove from oil, and set on a wire rack, and repeat with subsequent batches.
  • Once all the ribs are fried, heat a wok over medium heat with a drizzle of oil. Make sure all your ingredients are ready to go here, they will all go in pretty quickly.
  • Fry the ginger, garlic, and scallions until fragrant, 1-2 mins.
  • Add in the ribs, then add in green chillies, red chillies, and onion. Quickly mix all together until nicely coated.
  • Finally add 1 teaspoon (or to taste) of the pepper salt. Mix it well, and remove from the heat.
  • Plate and serve hot.

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