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Sichuan Spareribs With Mala BBQ Sauce

Choose between cooking methods based on your desired mouth feel—al dente or extra tender—and your available time.
Author: Grace Young | for The Mala Market | Inspiration & Ingredients for Sichuan Cooking


  • 1 rack St. Louis-style spareribs (2½ to 3 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Pixian doubanjiang (chili bean paste)
  • 2 tablespoons tianmianjiang (sweet wheat paste)
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese dark soy sauce (Zhongba preferred)
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tablespoons Zhenjiang black vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese roasted sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground Sichuan pepper (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons honey


  • Cut the ribs into 2 equal pieces. Remove any visible fat pockets. Lightly score the ribs on the meat side and sprinkle sugar on both sides, using more on the meaty side. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  • Prepare the chili bean paste by putting it on a cutting board and mincing with a knife to break down any whole beans. Add it to a small bowl with the sweet wheat paste, vinegar, dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, hoisin, sesame oil, and ground Sichuan pepper and stir to combine. Alternatively, add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Add the ribs to a wide bowl or large zip-lock bag and pour about ⅔ of the marinade over them, making sure all spareribs are well coated. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator, or up to two days. Refrigerate remaining sauce.

High and Fast (Chinese) Cooking Method

  • Allow ribs to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. As the oven preheats place spareribs meat side up in a roasting pan or a sheet pan that has been lined with foil. Place the pan in the oven and roast 30 minutes or until spareribs are browned (a larger rack may take longer).
  • Remove pan from the oven. Preheat broiler and transfer spareribs to a broiler pan. Using a basting brush, baste spareribs with remaining ⅓ sauce and drizzle them with honey. Place broiler pan 4 inches from the heat and broil 1 to 5 minutes, or until the spareribs are just caramelized. Monitor closely to prevent burning. Remove from the oven and set on a cutting board to cool. Cut the spareribs into individual ribs and serve immediately or at room temperature.

Low and Slow (American South) Cooking Method

  • Allow ribs to come to room temperate. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil, and place ribs on an oiled rack that fits inside the pan. Cover ribs and entire pan with foil and seal tightly. Roast for 2 hours.
  • Remove pan from oven and remove foil, then return exposed ribs to oven for about 1 more hour. When they are good and tender, increase heat to 450 degrees, baste the ribs with remaining ⅓ sauce and return them to oven. Roast for about 5 minutes, watching to make sure the glaze doesn't burn, then drizzle honey on top of ribs and roast an additional 3 to 5 minutes, or until the ribs have a dark-brown, caramelized "bark." Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting into individual ribs. Best served warm.


Ground Sichuan pepper: Sort Sichuan peppercorns and discard any black seeds or twigs. Toast in a dry skillet or toaster oven until pods start to smell very fragrant, but do not brown them. Let peppercorns cool, then grind in a spice grinder or in a mortar & pestle to your desired coarseness. Sift out any yellow husks that don't break down. Sichuan pepper powder will retain its potent flavor and numbing punch for only a few weeks.