How to make jasmine tea smoked pork ribs

Michelin Star chef Tong Chee Hwee talks us through his unique recipe for sticky and tender Chinese-style ribs. The jasmine tea imparts a gentle smokiness without being overpowering.

How to make jasmine tea smoked pork ribs

You will need

  • 2 x 800g-1kg racks free-range pork ribs
  • 60g potato flour (from Ocado, health food shops or
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • 120g demerara sugar
  • 150g cooked white rice
  • 20g loose-leaf jasmine tea
  • 50ml clear honey mixed with 1 tsp boiling water

For the sauce

  • 180ml shaoxing rice wine (from the world food aisle of large supermarkets)
  • 120ml light soy sauce
  • 90g tomato ketchup
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 65g white wine vinegar
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 3 black cardamom pods
  • 45g fresh ginger, thinly sliced

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter. Hands-on time 30 min, simmering time 1 hour 30 min, plus smoking

  1. Cut each rack of ribs into 4 pieces.


  2. Dust the ribs in the potato flour and shake off the excess.


  3. Heat a glug of oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the ribs.


  4. Fry for 5-10 minutes to colour, then remove from the pan and set aside.


  5. Put all the sauce ingredients in a large, deep casserole or heavy- based saucepan that has a lid. Pour in 1 litre cold water.


  6. Bring to the boil over a medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the ribs – the sauce needs to just cover them, so you may need to add a splash more water.


  7. Bring the sauce to a rolling boil over a high heat for 5 minutes. Cover the pan with a lid and turn down the heat to medium so the sauce is gently simmering. Cook for 1 hour 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. For the final 20 minutes, remove the lid and increase the heat. Stir occasionally to stop the sauce catching and burning. Once the sauce is thick and glossy, turn off the heat.
  8. Double-line a deep roasting tin with foil, leaving enough overhang to cover the ribs. Spread the Demerara sugar, cooked rice and loose-leaf jasmine tea over the bottom of the tin, then put a metal roasting rack on top.


  9. Put the tray on the hob over a low-medium heat, then, when the tea leaves start to smoke, put the ribs on the roasting rack (reserve the sauce in the pan). Turn down the heat to low. Brush the tops of the ribs with the watered-down honey to glaze.


  10. Fold over the overhanging foil, scrunching the edges to close them and form a parcel – leave it a little loose in the centre for the steam/smoke to escape.


  11. Leave the ribs over the heat to smoke/steam for 4-5 minutes.Turn off the heat, carefully unwrap the ribs and lift them onto a serving platter. Drizzle with a little of the reserved sauce from the pan, if you like, then serve.

Chef Tong’s tips for success

  • There’s no need to grill the ribs, but if you want a more caramelised result you can reserve a bit of the sauce, then baste the finished ribs with it and grill them on a high heat for 2-3 minutes.
  • For a spicy favour, add 1 tsp sichuan pepper or chilli fakes to the sauce at the beginning of step 5. This recipe also works well with beef ribs – keep the quantities the same as in the recipe.
  • In the restaurant, the chefs use a fermented rice product called Chinese red yeast rice to smoke the ribs, which imparts a red hue and subtle favour to the meat. It can be tricky to find (it’s usually available in Chinese supermarkets and online), but if you come across it it’s worth buying to make the dish even more authentic.

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