Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Braised pork spare ribs with pumpkin

My family’s favourite Chinese restaurant in Perth is the Northbridge Chinese Restaurant on Roe Street, just across from Wellington Bus Station. If you are after looking for somewhere to have dinner and want to eat some authentic and tasty Chinese dishes, I recommend this restaurant (this is where we have our Chinese New Year dinner each year). 

One of our favourite things to order is a braised pork spare ribs and pumpkin dish. When we eat this dish, my dad and I would always discuss what ingredients we thought was in the dish and how we could replicate it. 

My dad’s restaurant is open for lunch from 11am to 3pm and then for dinner at 5:30pm to 10pm. Between 3pm-5:30pm, this is the time where everyone gets to relax and eat, my dad cooks up a few dishes and all the staff at the restaurant sit down together and eat lunner (lunch+dinner – what do you call that? breakfast and lunch = brunch? so maybe I can call it ‘lunner’). My dad uses this meal time to try out new dishes and all the staff at the restaurant are the guinea pigs. 

My dad has been cooking various iterations of this braised pork and pumpkin dish at his restaurant for his staff to try. One day my dad finally showed me the results. It’s not exactly the same as the dish that we have at the Northbridge Chinese Restaurant but it does contain many key elements and flavours, and it’s delicious!

What makes this dish so tasty is the use of pastes and condiments which you find aisles of at Asian supermarkets.

The Chu Hou paste and Ground Bean paste used to braise the pork spare ribs are the key flavour components of the dish (they are made up of a combination of soy beans, sesame, garlic, ginger, fermented bean curd and some spices - it’s packed with umami!). It’s hard to describe the flavour - I guess it’s provides a licorice-y, anise-y, savoury flavour but along with the other ingredients it’s quite subtle, and you get a bit of heat from the curry powder and chilli, and the hoisin sauce and the pumpkin provides sweetness, and the addition of Shaoxing wine rounds out all the flavours The pumpkin is delicious as it absorbs all the wonderful flavours of the braise. All I can say is that I find this dish very rewarding to eat!

Peanut oil
Pork spare ribs ,1 kg chopped into 3cm cubes
Pork stock or water 
Star anise, 3
Garlic, 3 cloves smashed
Ginger, 2 slices with skin left on
10-15 small dried red chillies, soaked until softened
Curry powder, 1 tablespoon
Hoisin sauce, 1 heaped tablespoon
Chu Hou paste, 1 ½ heaped tablespoons
Ground Bean paste, 1 heaped tablespoon
Dark soy sauce, ½ tablespoon
Shaoxing wine, 1/3 cup
Salt, 1 teaspoon (I used rock salt)
Sugar, 3-4 teaspoons (I used rock sugar/yellow lump)
Pumpkin, quarter of a whole pumpkin chopped into bite sized pieces
(cane sugar)
Par-boil the pork cubs and rinse with cold water.

Heat peanut oil in a wok. Add in garlic, ginger, star anise, chillies, Hoisin sauce, Chu Hou paste, Ground Bean paste and fry over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until aromatic.

Add the pork cubes into the wok and fry for 7 minutes until the pork pieces are browned and coated in the sauces/pastes.

Then add in the curry powder and dark soy sauce and fry for 1 minute.
Add in the Shaoxing wine to deglaze the wok and fry for 1-2 minutes. 
Transfer the pork to a pot and add in hot stock or water to just cover the pork.
Bring to boil and then simmer on low heat for 1.5 hours until the pork pieces are tender.

Bring to boil again to season with a little salt and sugar to taste.
Then add in the pumpkin pieces (move to the bottom of the pot) and cook for 15-20 minutes until tender.
Serve with rice. 

Here are some of my other pork belly recipes:


  1. I have not been able to stop thinking about this since you posted it hey, it looks so good. I need to find a local asian supermarket to stock up on some of these things!

  2. Hey S!

    Yep, it tastes pretty amazing (a great winter dish) and you'll be able to experiment with all the pastes and stuff you buy from your Asian supermarket to make other dishes too. They all add a different flavour dimension.

  3. trying this tonight.

  4. HI!
    Id really love to try this recipe but I cant get hold of Chu Hou paste and Ground bean paste...So, can I substittute these two things with anything else?? Anf if not, do you think its worth making without them? thanks!

    1. Hello :) This is the way that I make this dish so I'm not sure about substitutes but the chu hou paste and ground bean paste are essential to the flavour profile and I don't think this dish will be the same without them. Do you have a good Asian grocery as these things should be available there? Good luck!

    2. Oh thats a shame. No, I live in Czech Republic, sadly we dont have grocery stores with Chinese stuff here...

    3. Hey there, this is very late reply! Try these substitutes ... use miso for bean paste, and hoisin for chu hou. They are close enough.