Prep time: 30 minutes, plus overnight marinating
Total time: 2 ½ hours, plus overnight marinating
for the marinade:
2 racks baby back ribs
½ cup|125 ml dark soy sauce
½ cup|140 grams hoisin
½ cup|125 ml light soy sauce
4 tablespoons|45 grams light brown sugar
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons maltose
1 teaspoon MSG
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cube red tofu
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled
for the glaze:
¼ cup|60 ml honey
¼ cup|60 ml maltose
for the hot mustard:
2 tablespoons mustard powder
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
tiny tiny pinch salt
for the sandwich:
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
6 oval milk buns or any soft bun
6 tablespoons Japanese mayonnaise
36 slices thinly sliced bread and butter pickles
- Marinate the ribs: Remove silver skin from the ribs if needed and portion into 3 even sections (4-5 ribs each). Combine the remaining ingredients in a food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Set aside ½ cup|125 ml of the marinade for the glaze.
- Cover the ribs in the marinade in a large baking dish and cover. Refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours.
- Set a steaming basket over a wok filled with water. Bring the water to a simmer and add the ribs to the steaming basket. Cover and steam for 90 minutes, meat-side down. You may need to refill the water in the wok, so keep an eye on it! Alternatively, heat the oven to 300°F. Wrap each rib section in aluminum foil and steam in the oven until tender, about 2 hours.
- Cool slightly, then, using a paring knife, slice down on each rib bone and twist each bone out. Once all bones have been removed, flip the ribs over and place another sheet tray over the top. Place some heavy weights on top of the ribs and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. This will allow the meat to stay moist while cooling and for it to absorb more flavor while allowing the top to dry out a bit before we glaze.
- Make the glaze: Combine the reserved ½ cup|125 ml of marinade with the honey and maltose and set aside.
- Make the hot mustard: In a small bowl, stir together the mustard powder, rice vinegar, salt, and 2 tablespoons water until well incorporated.
- Soak the onions in ice-cold water.
- Heat the broiler to high. Glaze each rib generously. Place ribs under the broiler until sticky, glossy, and heated through with some charred burnt bits throughout, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Slice the buns in half and spread the inside of each with the mayonnaise. Toast under the broiler until golden, about 2 minutes, and slather on some mustard. Top each with a rack of the ribs and assemble with the onions, pickles, and rib drippings.
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This is part of a special series, Indulgence, which explores extravagant living in a time of restraint. It’s also in the September 2021 VICE magazine issue. Subscribe here.