Steamed pork ribs with fermented black beans and butternut squashSteamed pork ribs with fermented black beans is one of my favorite dishes from Cantonese dim sum houses.

Under the power of steam, the ribs turned juicy with a perfectly balanced soft and chewy texture.  The fermented black soybeans give the dish its signature aroma and a boost of umami.  With only two main ingredients and simple steaming method, this dish exemplifies the minimalist approach of Cantonese cooking.

For a long time, I felt it is such a perfect dish that does not need any tweaking or improvement, until one day I was at a dim sum house in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park and discovered a version with addition of small pumpkin cubes.  The sweetness of the pumpkin nicely counterbalanced the saltiness of the black beans, and brightened the dish with the color and scent of autumn.  What a great idea!

So, in my recipe below, I’m stealing that idea.  My experiments showed that other types of winter squash work just as well as the pumpkin for the recipe.  In fact, butternut squash turned out to be my favorite choice for the dish.

When winter squash are abundant at this time of the year, it’s also a great idea to reverse the ratio of the ingredients in the recipe to make it primarily a winter squash dish, with pork ribs only playing a supporting role to enhance the flavors.

 

Steamed pork ribs with fermented black soybeans and butternut squash

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

1lb (450 g) pork ribs.  Ask your butcher to cut the ribs through the bones into 1-inch (2.5 cm) strips.
6 oz (170 g) butternut squash or pumpkin or any other type of winter squash, cut into 1/3-inch (8 mm) cubes
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

For the marinade:
1 tablespoon fermented black soybeans, crushed with the back of a spoon
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Procedure

  1. Cut the pork ribs between the bones into small pieces.  Soak them in water for 10 minutes to remove the blood.  Mix them with the ingredients for the marinade and marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Mix the ribs with the butternut squash cubes, and place them on a plate that fits into a steamer, or two plates into a two-layer steamer.  Steam until the ribs are cooked (the meat is tender with a bit of bounce and chew), about 10 – 15 minutes.
  3. Remove the plate(s) from the steamer.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed and serve immediately.
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