Fiery Sulawesi pork ribs

Fiery Sulawesi pork ribs


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If you like your food fiery, Mandano in northern Sulawesi is the place for you. Here fragrant spices and heavy use of chilli typify the food for heat that hits you with shouts, not whispers. As many Minahasan people are Christian (alongside a common persuasion towards blood magic), halal dietary restrictions have not shaped the cuisine. This means bush meats from rats and bats to wild boar and python fill the butchers’ markets. A little less exotic, these succulent barbecued pork ribs make a particularly good carrier for the big flavours.

  • 2 racks of pork ribs, ideally baby back ribs
  • Bumbu spice paste

  • 5 Asian shallots, ideally red Asian shallots, peeled
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 red chillies, large, deseeded (or 3 for less heat)
  • 1 knob of ginger, 5cm in length, peeled
  • 2 tbsp of palm sugar, ideally gula jawa, shaved
  • Dabu dabu dipping sauce

  • 3 tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 red chillies, large, deseeded and finely sliced (optional)
  • 1 bird's eye chilli, finely sliced (optional)
  • 2 Asian shallots, ideally red Asian shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tsp palm sugar, ideally gula jawa, shaved
  • 1 tsp salt
Roughly chop the ingredients for the bumbu, then blend to a paste in a food processor. Add a little water to help it come together, if needed. Season generously with salt and black pepper
Use a small knife to remove the membrane from the underside of the ribs. Smear half the bumbu into the ribs and lay them in a shallow oven dish. Cover tightly with foil and leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours
Preheat an oven to 150°C/gas mark 2. Roast the ribs, still covered with the foil, for 2½ hours. Baste once or twice during cooking. The fat should have melted leaving the meat very tender
Meanwhile make the dipping sauce by combining all the ingredients and taste for heat, sweetness and tang
Heat a barbecue, grill or griddle pan until very hot. Grill the ribs on both sides until they start to char and caramelise, then smear over the remaining bumbu. Continue grilling until the sauce is dry and fragrant. Eat with your fingers, dipping into the dabu dabu as you go
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