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A bowl of steamed paigu with fermented beans, a spare rib dish commonly eaten in dim sum
A bowl of steamed paigu with fermented beans, a spare rib dish commonly eaten in dim sum

Spare ribs (also side ribs or spareribs) are a variety of ribs cut from the lower portion of a pig, specifically the belly and breastbone, behind the shoulder, and include 11 to 13 long bones. There is a covering of meat on top of the bones and also between them. Spare ribs (pork) are distinguished from short ribs, which are beef.

Pork spare ribs are cooked and eaten in various cuisines around the world. They are especially popular in Chinese and American Chinese cuisine; they are generally called paigu (Chinese: 排骨; pinyin: páigǔ; Cantonese Yale: pàaih gwāt; lit. 'row of bones'), and in the cuisine of the Southern United States.

Preparation

Chinese spare ribs
Chinese spare ribs
Basted spare ribs on an outdoor grill
Basted spare ribs on an outdoor grill

Chinese

In Chinese cuisine, pork spare ribs are generally first cut into 7-to-10-centimetre (3 to 4 in) sections, then may be fried, steamed, or braised.

In the Cantonese cuisine of southern China, spare ribs are generally red in color and roasted with a sweet and savory sauce. This variety of spare ribs is grouped as one of the most common items of siu mei, or Cantonese roasted meat dishes. In American Chinese cuisine, pork spare ribs are generally cooked in char siu style, and often feature as a part of the appetizer dish called pu pu platter.

Chinese-style spare ribs are usually consumed by gnawing the meat off of the small bone sections while held aloft with chopsticks.

Southern American

Spare ribs are popular in the American South. They are generally cooked on a barbecue grill or on an open fire, and are served as a slab (bones and all) with a sauce. Due to the extended cooking times required for barbecuing, ribs in restaurants are often prepared first by boiling, parboiling or steaming the rib rack and then finishing it on the grill.

American butchers prepare two cuts:

Southern-style spare ribs are usually pulled from the whole slab and consumed individually by hand, with the small amount of meat adhering to each bone gnawed off by the eater.

See also