Ribs are undoubtedly a cornerstone of American summer barbecues, especially in the South where it's practically an art form. Die-hard 'cue masters will argue there's a difference between barbecue and grilling. And there is: Barbecue is a low and slow process of cooking meat in a smoky humid environment. Grilling is about quick contact-cooking. Steaks and burgers are grilling. Ribs and pork shoulder are barbecue. Barbecue can be broken down further into wet and dry versions. It's pretty self-explanatory but the debate as to which is better is one that will never be decided upon. The secret is in the sauce—or is it the rub?
What most Americans know as barbecue is based on the wet barbecue technique that originated in Kansas City. Large food brands further popularized wet barbecue with their lines of sauces. Wet barbecue is all about the sauce whereas dry barbecue is all about the rub. No thick sauce is used to baste the meat except for a mop sauce (typically made with vinegar, which helps keep the meat moist). You'll find dry barbecue in Memphis, where they serve sauce on the side for dipping, but you will never see it slathered on the meat. Most at-home barbecue includes a combination of both dry and wet methods.
This Asian fusion barbecue ribs recipe I've developed begins its flavoring with a paprika rub that imparts smoky flavor during an overnight stay in the fridge. The next day the ribs are roasted in the oven for just over 2 hours and then braised in tamarind-flavored soda for another hour or so. After being slathered with my homemade sweet-and-spicy tamarind BBQ sauce, the ribs are grilled until sticky and blackened a bit. This step gives the ribs an authentic barbecue flavor. The ribs are moist and succulent, spicy and flavorful. They're just the right item to add to your summer grilling menu this Fourth of July. I promise you'll make your family's mouths water with this recipe.
Thank you to Jarritos for sending me their Mexican sodas to use in this recipe. Tamarind-flavored Jarritos has always been my favorite.
Tamarind-Glazed Baby Back Ribs
2 racks pork loin ribs (about 4 pounds total)
3/4 cup Paprika Rib Rub, recipe follows
1 bottle Jarritos tamarind soda or any brand ginger ale
1-1/2 cups Tamarind Barbecue Sauce, recipe follows
Trim any excess fat from ribs. Using a spoon, forcibly separate silverskin from underside of ribs. Grab hold of membrane, using a towel for leverage, and remove in one piece.
Place ribs on a large tray and rub all over with rub. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator overnight. Let ribs come back to room temperature before cooking.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Roast ribs for 2-1/2 hours.
Remove ribs from oven and pour over with soda. Wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Return to oven and braise for 1-1/2 hours.
Heat gas grill at high and reduce to medium heat, about 300 degrees F, when ready to grill.
Uncover ribs and pour off remaining liquid. Spread ribs with some of the barbecue sauce. Grill, turning and brushing with barbecue sauce, until glazed, about 15 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into 1- and 2-rib sections and serve. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
Paprika Rib Rub
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
2 tablespoons smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón)
2 tablespoons hot Hungarian paprika or cayenne
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 cup palm sugar or light-brown sugar
1/4 cup Kosher salt
Combine all the ingredients until thoroughly combined with no lumps. Yield: 1-1/2 cups. Store in an air-tight container in the pantry if not using immediately.
Tamarind Barbecue Sauce
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1-inch piece ginger, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
5 stalks lemongrass, chopped
1 cup cilantro, stems included
1/4 cup fresh or dried curry leaves
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 cup Tamarind Puree, recipe follows
1 cup organic ketchup
1/2 cup palm sugar or light-brown sugar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup mirin
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup sriracha
Add garlic, ginger, onion, lemongrass, cilantro, and curry leaves to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a paste forms.
Warm oil in a saucepan set over medium heat. Add paste and sauté until almost dry, about 3 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cook until thickened, about 20 to 30 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce off from the heat. Yield: 4 cups. Keep sauce in a jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks if not using immediately.
Note: Tamarind is a tropical fruit commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine. If purchased in its natural pod state, it will require some processing to turn into puree. You can also find tamarind paste in vacuum-sealed packages. Add 1/2 cup hot water to a 1/2 cup paste to get 1 cup puree.
1 pound tamarind pods
1 cup hot water
Peel tamarind pods and remove stringy fibers. Add pods to a bowl and pour over with hot water. Let soak for 10 minutes. Use a spoon to mash tamarind into smaller pieces. Place a sieve over a large bowl and pour tamarind pulp through, mashing and pressing until pulp is pushed through. Remove large seeds as you go. Yield: 1 cup.